Barbarians in Spain?

Barbarians in Spain?

Fresh off the cancellation of their game versus Tier one nation Italy, plans are reportedly in place for a Barbarians in Spain clash for the European nation to host another exhibition game with commercial potential.

It follows the hugely popular match versus the Classic All Blacks that revived the views that Spanish rugby fans are thirsting for top-class opposition, even while there is crisis within the organization after their Spanish Rugby RWC ambitions fell flat under the impact of ineligible players.

Barbarians in Spain?

Initial reports here in Spain from Apalos have suggested that Barbarians will be coming to take on Spain on Saturday 25th June, a little over three weeks away. The reason for this is the reported acquiring of a ´trailer´ video, showing Barbarians en Espana. Although at the moment nothing has been confirmed either publicly by The Spanish Rugby Federation (FER) or Barbarians social media accounts, this has not stopped excitement and speculation growing here in Spain.

Moreover, the story has now been picked up by AS, one of Spain´s leading sports daily newspapers, with their own story here. In the report, they confirm that the game is taking place by stating “The Lions will meet on June 25, in Gijón, with the Barbarians, a team of international stars based in the United Kingdom that is accessed by invitation”.

Again at the time of writing, no official reports have come out. However, with multiple reports and the loss of any real commercially marketable game, as no tier 1 nation is set to face Spain, there is a clear space in the calendar.

Breaking story reaction, and Analysis

It would be nothing short of a coup for Spanish Rugby to be part of two big events in the same year as Spanish rugby is at its lowest ebb. Why now? Well, it would seem the extraordinary success of the Kiwi House-led event of Spain vs Classic All Blacks in front of 40,000 people has opened eyes to the enormous opportunity that Spain provides to the rugby events market. Combined with the glowing terms in which members of the classic all blacks have enthused about the event and these remarks have reached an anglosphere audience.

Success begets success and the Classic All Blacks provided Spanish Rugby with a level of coverage and exposure unheard of here in Spain. Were Spain to have even one similar event annually, it could generate much-needed income, new commercial partners, and potentially lead to actual marketable nations interested in playing in Spain.

The event would also crucially provide Spain a roadmap of how to build a calendar of events that is not dependent on World Rugby, whose relationship after the eligibility crisis is at another all-time low. However, it isn’t just this decision that should show Spanish Rugby that World Rugby should not be relied on. The upcoming schedule for the HSBC World Rugby 7s was announced and despite Spain being a core member of the rugby sevens World Series circuit for several years, they have found themselves without a leg again.

All the more galling, as Spain was given legs this year in January (when international tourism from France and the UK was largely impossible) for the well attended Malaga round. Now tourists are allowed back – when Spain could fully market it as an event – yet they have been dumped for three legs in the now no-longer democratic Hong Kong [twice] and Dubai.

Rugby innovation a way forward in Spain

Combined with the unwillingness or impotence of World Rugby in providing Spain with a Tier one nation home game in the last decade, plus their inability to stop Spanish Women’s Rugby team from being ‘effectively excommunicated by the Six Nations cartel’ it means the global body should not be wholly relied upon to grow the sport in Spain.

A rugby innovation that is heartening also, is that the event is not being scheduled in Madrid, which gives a chance for a wider audience to see the spectacle. Lucratively for FER, other markets in Spain could be tapped into. With the promotion of Aviles-based Belenos Rugby Club to Division de Honor, there could be a virtuous circle if handled correctly.

Taking the positive from a negative situation is what is called for. Leadership too, and thinking outside the box, Which is where the Barbarians in Spain might be a win-win situation. And when you think of the innovations that the Barbarians FC (see main image) has brought to the sport, having a form of that ‘festival style’ match celebrate the game on the Iberian peninsula.

Three weeks would be an incredibly short turnaround after the Classic All Blacks group had years to arrange the game but, should it happen, it will show that there is a world of rugby, outside of World Rugby.


“Main photo sourced from Twitter”