Are Netflix series about sporting events worth all the hassle for teams?

Streaming service are recording behind the scenes at this year's Six Nations tournament
Are Netflix series about sporting events worth all the hassle for teams?

Dan Sheehan and a Netflix soundman during an Ireland rugby squad training session in the IRFU High-Performance Centre at the Sport Ireland Campus in Dublin. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

IRELAND got off to a blazing start in the Six Nations tournament with a confident 34-10 win over Wales, and then a super home win over the French, and with the Italians to come to Dublin on Saturday, they have set them up nicely for a shot at the grand slam and overall, Six Nations winners.

But what makes this year's competition different to previous events is the presence of Netflix cameras within the team bubbles.

The IRFU and the other participating Six Nations teams will receive €113,500 each as part of the deal that brings the cameras behind the scenes for the duration of the tournament. That figure will rise to almost €140,000 next season if rugby’s version of ‘ Drive to Survive’ is renewed.

This is a huge amount of money for the participating teams, but some have been less eager to open their doors to the cameras.

That has led to tensions on the ground at team level, with each squad hosting a team of cameramen. It is understood that they are interviewing a group of eight Ireland players, including Keith Earls and Peter O’Mahony but not captain Johnny Sexton.

Peter O'Mahony gearing up for Ireland's win over Wales. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Peter O'Mahony gearing up for Ireland's win over Wales. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

They have access to the coaching staff for regular interviews and can film parts of training but the access they have been granted behind the scenes has fallen short of expectations.

Players from several teams including Ireland are understood to be unhappy with the lack of initial consultation, while staff are concerned that they’ll have to taper their presentation when the cameras are on.

Ireland and other teams are reticent to give up all their ‘intellectual property’ regarding tactics, given that plenty of that material will still be important to them for the next year or so.

This begs the question, is a Netflix series going to shed light on the sport and in turn gather more fans or is it just going to hinder the team's involved in the competition?

If this series is based on the concept of ‘ Drive to Survive’, one would assume that it would be a benefit to the sport of rugby to give as much access as possible to the cameras. It transformed Formula 1 with over 53% of their followers’ becoming fans of the sport after watching the series.

This Six Nations show which will air next year could see a similar uptake in fan base purely from Netflix. There is a lack of rugby footage in this era of sports series and documentaries.

Some people argue that it is time for rugby to sell the game better and step up to their counter parts in soccer and other sports. The modern supporter is desperate for glimpses behind the curtain. Fans want to get a sense of life in camp. They love seeing more of the players' personalities.

It seems to be a delicate balance between access to footage and intrusion on the staff and their players.


The beauty of ‘ Drive to Survive’ is the off-the-cut moments that are captured rather than the staged interviews and shots of the driving.

This footage could be hindered in the Six Nations series due to the demands put on the coaches to win at all costs, rather than helping a Netflix crew with filming.

It will be interesting to see does this lack of willingness by players and coaches to open their doors to filming burden the outcome of the series. The Six Nations is one of the most competitive rugby tournaments in the world and the winner of it is held to extremely high esteem. Perhaps the competitive nature of the team's taking part will affect the outcome of the series, but overall rugby seems to need this.

Of course, there are die-hard fans of rugby that will watch every game regardless, but for others, the Six Nations is something that does not interest them.

If the right balance is gained between the film producers and the team's competition, they should be no reason why this series isn’t successful.

Competitiveness and the aim to win these games should be at the forefront, but Netflix gaining access to these rugby teams is defiantly a step in the right direction.

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