"Rugby has no shortage of famous names of its own, but is now about to acquire another one with different sporting associations. Real Madrid." Huw Richards writes
All Blacks, Springboks, Toulouse, Llanelli Scarlets, Leicester Tigers…
Rugby has no shortage of famous names of its own, but is now about to acquire another one with different sporting associations. Real Madrid, who squabble with Manchester United not only for the services of Cristiano Ronaldo but as to which is the world’s most famous football club, have announced the formation of their own rugby section.
It confirms an intention first stated a couple of years ago, but which has taken longer to come to fruition than initially planned. Real will take over, and give their name, to an existing club - Bwin Pozuelo Boadilla.
So doing they get immediate entry to the top levels of the Spanish game, taking over a club which finished second in the ‘Division de Honor’, Spain’s top league, and defeated champions Cetransa El Salvador in the final of the Copa del Rey.
Real Madrid will be their fourth name in 22 years. They started as Real Canoe, and were one of the best clubs in Spain around the turn of the millennium, subsequently became RC Noroeste – the name under which negotiations were first opened with Real – and took on their current name when gambling company Bwin became club sponsors at the start of last season.
They already play in Real’s colours, all-white. But Real showed an acute awareness of rugby’s mythology this week by announcing that they will be playing in All Black.
For Real, this represents a discovery of earlier traditions. They are a multisports club, with the basketball section not far as famous in its own sphere as the soccer club, and had a rugby section from 1925, led by players like Eulogio Aranguren, an Argentinian who was one of their early football stars. They won a Spanish title in 1934, but were badly hit by the outbreak of the civil war in 1936 and ultimately closed in 1948.
The list of Spanish champions shows that other famous football names have a rugby history. Atletico Madrid took the title in 1949 while Barcelona were the dominant force of the postwar years, winning 17 championships including 10 between 1942 and 1956. Barca have recently returned to the game, like Real incorporating an exisiting club, but finished bottom of the Division de Honor last season.
A club spokesman this week said that, "Rugby is a sport of struggle, commitment, solidarity and is very sporting. It will help to attract young football fans who want to be involved in our club."
They also join at a crucial moment in the development of Spanish rugby, with plans underway for the launch next spring of an Iberian Super League with a dozen teams from Spain, Portugal, Andorra and Gibraltar, aimed at raising the profile of the game and moving it towards a more professional basis.
This is regarded warily, to put it mildly, by the Spanish Federation which fears it will detract from its competitions.
Real arrive at a time when they can both hope to benefit from any change in the game’s status in Spain and also make this likelier. It is a consistent complaint of Spanish rugby officials that national media ignore them, but any event around Real is news in Spain.
It might also not be long before we see Real play on a British ground. With a team built around players like the Samoan international Douglas Sanft they are already the closest challengers to the dominance of Cetransa, who will play in this year’s European Cup.
It seems highly unlikely that Real have come into rugby just to make up the numbers. Their pulling power and a successful all-Iberia competition might in time be just what it takes to persuade the established nations to let the peninsular nations into the Heineken.
What odds on Leicester entertaining Real Madrid at Welford Road in around 2015
21-07-08 10:08 AM
Well, it's good that these big names are taking up ranks in Spain, however there still won't be the numbers to make the game anywhere near level it is on the home nations or France for a long time.
I'd be willing to put money on it that I'll never see Gloucester vs Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in my lifetime.
Even though this is an important first step, I very much doubt we'll see Real Madrid (or any other spanish or portuguese team) competing for top honours in Europe within the next decade, as there aren't any fanbases large enough to support a full-pro structure.
Rugby in Portugal and Spain will have to shed its rather elitist outlook in order to succeed at the highest level. As of today, it's perceived as a sport for the upper classes only; while rugby has been making for interesting social gatherings :P , it loses talent and audience to soccer all the time.
I dont know exactly how popular rugby is in Spain/Portugal. But if there will be a Iberian Super League....how many people will come to watch a match?
can somebody tell me a number ? And how many people go to a match of the spanish national team
I'm sure Real Madrid will fare better than that, but rugby matches with +1000 attendances are a rarity in Spain and Portugal.
Some weeks ago, Belenenses won the portuguese title and there were only 100 (?) people out there.