Rugby: Highlanders to Keep Green Strip for 2012 Season

Jeff CheshireAnalyst IIJune 24, 2011

Ben Smith wearing the Highlanders green jersey against the Force earlier this year.
Ben Smith wearing the Highlanders green jersey against the Force earlier this year.Teaukura Moetaua/Getty Images

The Highlanders will play the entire 2012 Super Rugby season in the green strips they wore earlier this year against the Force. The move was confirmed today, despite an unprecedented amount of support against the change.

It has been said that the franchise was locked into some sort of contract with Adidas, making it impossible to reverse the change for the next season. However, the board will re-look at the playing strip for 2013, possibly letting the public have a say in what the team wears.

But it may be a question of too little, too late, as this decision has clearly angered many Highlanders fans, and the reaction within the region in coming days will surely show exactly what they think of the new green jerseys.

When it was announced four weeks ago that the team was to wear green, there was unbelievable opposition to the idea. Fans, past players, journalists and other prominent rugby figures within the area all voiced there opinions, and very few of them were supportive.

The main issue, among others, was that going to green was going away from tradition and that it didn't represent the fans of the franchise who identified themselves with the traditional colours of blue, gold and maroon.

However, Highlanders CEO Roger Clark said that this wasn't a problem, as "the Highlanders have no tradition" and he was "surprised at the public's reaction."

Now shows just how out of touch the Highlanders board is with their fans.

They said research showed them that a change in team colours was a necessary move in saving the franchise.

The way I see it there are two possibilities. Either, they didn't actually do any research or they completely misinterpreted the data. What research could have possibly given them that data? You only have to have been in Dunedin over the past month to see that.

Highlanders fans are very proud of the tradition of their franchise, whatever the recent results have been, and identify themselves with the three colours their team wears. But it seems this has flown straight over the board's heads.

As a consequence many fans have lost faith in their franchise. Ultimately, a move that was supposed to bring new fans to the region has left them in a worse position than they were when they started.

You would think they would have recognised the danger signs after the uproar when the team wore the green shirt during one game this year. They had the opportunity to change back and save the situation.

But they didn't.

So where to now for the Highlanders? Many of their fans are unwilling to support them while they wear green.

Such a shame when the team took a turn for the better this year. While it seems unfair to take it out of Jamie Joseph and his boys, you've got to hit them where it hurts, and if people stop going to watch the games, the board will have to take notice. 

Long term, it looks promising that the Highlanders fans will have their way and will get to see their team back in their traditional colours. But for now, it looks as though Highlanders fans will have to accept the decision and make their voices heard.