What Makes the Perfect Tournament: The Shortcomings of this Year's Rugby and Cricket World Cups

Photo: Adobe Stock / Thaut Images

By Oli Argles

With the Cricket World Cup crawling to the inevitable conclusion of India winning on home soil, my WhatsApp groups continued to be filled with similar disparaging remarks to those that I had received during the Rugby World Cup… All focusing on the length of time that the tournament was on for and the multitude of games that had absolutely nothing riding on them.

As sports fans, we should have been ecstatic about the prospect of having not one, but two World Cups on at the same time. Yet the consensus seems to be one of lethargy, with both events dragging on and falling flat (but perhaps the winning teams viewed this differently…). 

So what makes the perfect sporting tournament?

Organisers and event stakeholders juggle a number of issues, including pressures for commercial returns from an array of sponsors and broadcasters eager to maximise their ROI by ensuring as many games are played as possible, regardless of the quality. But how does one strike a balance? 

The Rugby World Cup 

Bigger tournaments, such as this year’s Rugby World Cup with 20 teams taking part, meant increased ticket sales and therefore increased revenue. However, the quality of the matches in the group stages left a lot to be desired. So it would have come as no surprise that the minute the quarter-finals rolled around, we were treated to two of the best games of Rugby ever seen in Ireland vs New Zealand and France vs South Africa, with both being nail-biting affairs. 

Of course, the game needs to grow, and it is important that developing rugby nations are given their chance on the world stage, but having a lengthy group stage with big groups and no mid-week games really did dampen the enthusiasm for the whole tournament.

The Cricket World Cup 

We’ve seen similar issues with the Cricket World Cup which features a group stage of ten teams and has meant that the tournament has felt convoluted with far too many dead rubbers (or maybe that’s just from the eyes of a hugely disappointed England fan). So, what is the perfect tournament? In my view, you need groups of four, games taking place on a daily basis, with a high degree of jeopardy for the teams involved. 

Football Tournaments  

For all its understandable shortcomings, the Qatar World Cup delivered from an entertainment perspective, as have previous European Championships where sixteen teams competed across four groups of four, followed by a competitive knockout stage. 

The current Champions League format, structured in a similar way has delivered in spades for fans; but this is being changed for the 2024/25 season – something this writer believes will be a detriment to the tournament and most importantly, its fans, whilst the organisers will be able to boast about their record revenues.

As fellow sports fans, what have been some of your favourite tournaments?

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