Janus, the Geneva Museum of Natural History's two-headed Greek tortoise, eats salad as it is presented to the press and the public during the official celebration of its 10th birthday, September 5, 2007, at the Natural History Museum in Geneva. Janus, named after the two-headed Roman god, was born September 3, 1997. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Friday marks the kick-off of the Rugby World Cup, which to sports fanatics here in the United States probably means... absolutely nothing. But avid rugby fans all over the world have been anxiously awaiting these next six weeks, when teams from 20 different countries will put in their mouth guards, hike up their short shorts, and prepare to battle it out for the championship. However, the biggest face-off so far has been between the International Rugby Board, the sport's governing body, and the press. A dispute over media restrictions has led to a boycott of the event by top news agencies such as Agence France-Presse, Reuters, and the Associated Press. As of Friday, top newspapers like the Guardian and French sports daily l'Equipe had joined in solidarity. The biggest sticking point has been restrictions placed by organizers on the use of internet photos: They are only allowing 50 photos to be transmitted during each match, which have new agencies less than pleased. So far, the boycott has only affected several pre-tournament events, but there has been pressure to quickly hammer out an agreement between the two obstinate sides before the tournament goes into full swing. News agencies hope that fear of shrinking coverage for sponsors will give them some leverage with organizers. But the head of IRB media communication's response?
[Sponsors] only care about the TV audience ... they don't care about newspaper coverage.
That's harsh. But as the press stands together to defend "editorial integrity," they could end up alienating fans hungry for coverage of their favorite players. And as for the IRB, which has been concerned about not attracting the same level of global sponsors as events like the soccer World Cup or the Olympics, they definitely aren't getting the good sportsmanship award this year.