The Wallabies are out, but exporters are still in the ruck

We’re out of the Rugby World Cup, but not from another world-class competition.



All rugby-loving Australians are a bit stunned at the early exit of the Wallabies from the Rugby World Cup 2007 in France at the hands of England (or rather Johnny Wilkinson’s boot to be precise).


The only saving grace is that New Zealand was beaten as well by France in Cardiff , despite the All Blacks being hot favourites to win the tournament. The early exit of the great New Zealand team – despite the enormous talent that the rugby nation nurtures and develops – at every World Cup since 1987 is getting beyond a choke… sorry I mean joke.

Mind you, we Aussies are in no position to stir the Kiwi pot, given how many famous Australians are really Kiwis (think Russell Crowe, Phar Lap, Fred Hollows and so on).


But while the Wallabies may be gone there’s actually still plenty of opportunity for Australian exporters to score, with a number of business networking events being staged across France and Wales. Organised by Austrade’s Business Club Australia, the networking events are staged to help Australian businesses meet local and other potential business partners who are there for the World Cup.


According to Australia’s senior trade commissioner in Paris, Kirsten Sayers: “A big event like the World Cup is a great opportunity to get France on the map for Australian exporters, particularly when a ‘Who’s Who’ of French business and political life will be in Paris for the final.”


Business Club Australia will be hosting a gala dinner at the Australian embassy in Paris on the Wednesday before the final, with many big names in Australian rugby and business life such as Australian Rugby Union CEO, John O’Neil, General Peter Cosgrove, Macquarie Bank chairman David Clarke, and senior representatives from Qantas, National Australia Bank, Minter Ellison and Coca-Cola Amatil. The Kiwis will also be represented by All Black legend and TV3 commentator Frank Bunce.


In addition, many other Australian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – particularly those with sporting links – will be there to take advantage of networking opportunities.


An example of an up-and-coming player is Concept Sports, which provides sports merchandising and marketing services. According to Concept Sports chairman Andrew Plympton: “We were just a small Australian sports merchandising company, but thanks to events like the Olympics, the America’s Cup and now the Rugby World Cup, we’re a global player in a business that does everything from manufacturing to marketing, merchandising and logistics.”


In addition to the grand finale in Paris, there have been Business Club functions in other venues in France, such as Montpellier and Bordeaux and also a special mission to Wales to coincide with the Wallabies pool game against the Welsh team in Cardiff.


According to Janelle Casey, Austrade’s specialist for health, biotechnology and well being: “We have brought a high-profile health mission to Wales and met lots of potential partners, investors and venture capitalists at the function at Millennium stadium in Cardiff. It was a great way to get the ‘Who’s Who’ of our very specialist industries in areas like biotechnology in the one room at the same time.”


Austrade’s trade commissioner for Northern England and Wales, Matthew Morgan, agrees: “There’s a lot happening in Wales as it diversifies from a manufacturing base into knowledge-based services and technology-intensive industries. The function was a chance to show off the new Welsh economy and to introduce Australian exporters to local businesses,” he explains.


The original Business Club concept was developed by Austrade at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. The concept was based on Austrade research about the economics of networking that showed that 50% of all exporters met “by accident” and that this could be sped up with well-targeted match making.


The Sydney Olympics was thought to be the best testing ground to try out the concept as there were so many international business visitors coming to Australia for the first time. As a result, many aspirational Australian exporters found that they were in the right place at the right time and after taking their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in Sydney 2000, they have cleverly built their brand at other events like the Rugby World Cup.


As Business Club Australia’s manager Ashley White points out, the special event strategy for doing business has been developed over the decade in both on-shore and off-shore forms.


“After the success of Sydney 2000, the Rugby World Cup 2003 and the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, Austrade decided to expand its business networking program at the Rugby World Cup 2007 here in France,” White says. “We were also at the FINA World Swimming championships and will be involved in the Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne before heading to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics.


“Football – the truly world game – is also on the horizon. With few major international events in Australia on the horizon, it made sense to take the BCA model overseas. Since its inception, BCA has held over 260 networking events in Australia and overseas. There are around 8500 members – with some 37% located offshore – and the BCA program has facilitated over $1.7 billion in trade and investment deals since 2000. That certainly shows the economics of networking – or ‘the power of schmooze’ – works in practice.”


There is certainly a lot of schmoozing around rugby if the Rugby World Cup 2003 in Australia is anything to go by. That tournament clearly demonstrated the strong links between “the game they play in heaven” and business.


In fact, according to Austrade research the rugby playing nations make up some of our key exporter destinations, with over 17,300 exporters going across the ditch to New Zealand, over 2000 to South Africa and nearly 250 to Argentina. Even the Pacific nations – like Fiji, Tonga and Samoa – account for over 3500 Australian exporters.


In conclusion, there’s plenty of business action left in the Rugby World Cup even if the Australian and New Zealand teams are no longer on the park. But who’s going to win? Could we see a repeat of the Falklands War with an Argentina versus England final, or will Gallic flair win the day and we’ll see France take on the might of the Springboks on home soil?


But just remember, especially to those diehard fans on both sides of the ditch, it’s only a game.


*Tim Harcourt is the chief economist of the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) and author of Beyond Our Shores . Tim also tried out for Randwick as part of preparation for the Rugby World Cup in 2003 and managed to kick a torpedo punt (Aussie Rules style) and make former Wallaby and Randwick player Owen Finnegan look fast.

Thanks are due to Ashley White, Janelle Casey, Matthew Morgan, Kirsten Sayers, Simon Kelly, Caroline James and Rhodri Jones for their assistance with this article.

To join Business Club Australia for the Rugby World Cup 2007 in France and the Beijing Olympics and the Melbourne Cup please see:


For more Gone Global blogs, click here .


Rugger buggers


No exporters

Export value




New Zealand






South Africa







































*England, Scotland and Wales are included
as UK according to ABS.

Source: Austrade, 2005-06 ABS data




Australian exporters to each rugby nation



Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.