22 October 2017
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I was delighted to read an article on the Telegraph website about the RFU launching a programme to combat concerns about the risk of injury (read article). It talks about fighting back against the negative publicity brought about by so many injuries in the professional game and the regular attempts by Professor Alysson Pollock to stop contact rugby being played in schools. It is a much needed campaign and I am sure when we get the details there will be many facets to it, but why has it taken so long to put something in place?
Back in 2014 I wrote an article titled ‘Rugby’s biggest challenge’ where I identified the perceived risk of injury as the biggest threat to the future of our game. This was following an article by Prof Pollock in the Daily Mail ‘Why NO mother should let her son play rugby’. After all, why would mothers want their children involved in a sport where they see so much damage being done to players? Then when George North kept getting knocked out in 2015 I penned another article in much the same vein (click here to read it) where I found it incredible that North and other players were allowed to stay on the pitch despite being so obviously unfit to do so.
Although the RFU robustly countered by pointing out the benefits of playing rugby in terms of the Core Values and the life lessons it teaches, along with changes in coaching courses to take account of head injuries, why has it taken until 2017 to put together a coordinated and sustained campaign to win over the general non-playing public?
I think the answer lies in the aforementioned article in the Telegraph. Up until recently, the RFU Board did not really have a credible answer to Prof Pollock’s assertions about injuries except to quote figures that the game is getting safer, more safeguards are being put in place and the positive life lessons that children are taught through playing the game. But a change of Chairman at the RFU when Bill Beaumont left to take charge of World Rugby also brought new thinking and new experiences to the role.
Andy Cosslett chaired England 2015 to deliver the most successful Rugby World Cup ever and amongst several high profile jobs around the world, he spent time in the 1990’s working with the AFL to bolster the image of Aussie Rules Football by promoting participation of the whole family, parents in particular. The theory is that the more parents understand the game and all the goes with it, the more inclined they are to let their children take part. The SFL campaign was a fruitful one and the hope is that a similar campaign updated for today’s risk-averse society will prove just as successful.
Rugby’s best strapline in my view is ‘More than an Game’, emphasising the social elements that go with it and the friends for life that you make through being involved. Cosslett’s experience with the AFL will have been invaluable in creating this new strategy for the RFU which must get the support of everyone involved the game.
9 April 2017
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The recent news that a child abuser has been at large targetting young players at rugby clubs in West London is a stark warning that we can never let our guard down. I should point out that he has only been accused of various offences involving young boys between 2011 and 2015 and is yet to be found guilty, but all rugby clubs need to understand that it could happen to them. Click here for the Evening Standard article.
I have felt that there has been a degree of complacency in the rugby community that the game’s Core Values somehow make it immune to potential abusers. When the story of Barry Bennell’s historic abuses in football broke last year, there were a number of posts on social media implying that ‘this kind of thing’ is rare in rugby. At a subsequent RFU Council meeting abuse in the game was raised as a question and the RFU Safeguarding team, who do an excellent job, provided some statistics about how many cases they had investigated and the numbers were higher than most had expected.
During my 25 years working in the NHS I have come across some very distressing cases of child abuse and one thing is very clear; a paedophile will go to extraordinary lengths and wait years if necessary to get into a position of trust and gain access to children. The rugby abuser in question did not fit most people’s typical profile of a paedophile in that he was in his twenties and maybe that was why he was allowed more leeway than normal. He may have had a DBS check (which superseded the CRB check) but that would only show anything if he had been caught before.
Rugby is a welcoming and tolerant sport. I recently listened to Nigel Owens’ interview on Desert Island Discs and he said that without rugby he may not even be alive, so worried was he about the reaction of players and union officials to his coming out as gay. But he was treated like any other person and his sexuality simply wasn’t an issue. But it is that same tolerance a paedophile will use to his advantage along with the general supposition that anyone involved in rugby must be a ‘good guy’.
For the safety of our young players and the reputation of our sport, ask questions about anyone who you have any doubts about, particularly if they coach or manage any mini or youth squads. Try to make sure there are at least two adults at every coaching session and match, even if you have to press-gang some parents into helping. There should be no reason for adults to be in changing rooms when children are changing. Club Safeguarding Officers have an important role so speak to them if something doesn’t look right.
All this should be obvious to most people but don’t let complacency be the way in for an abuser.
21 March 2017
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This witty but informative piece about the last 20 minutes of the France v Wales game is well worth a read. It made me chuckle but it rightly exonerates Wayne Barnes from any charges of incompetence.
Click the link below:
Source: wayne through the looking-glass
8 March 2017
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On Saturday England take on Scotland for what promises to be an enthralling game. If you are lucky enough to have a ticket for the game, join us for something to eat and drink before the game. Our main sponsor Greene King is kindly providing some mini kegs of their excellent beer while our Women & Girls Rugby sponsor Musk’s is generously donating loads of their delicious sausages for us to munch on. There will be wine, soft drinks and various nibbles too if beer & sausage aren’t your thing.
We will be in the Cardinal Vaughan car park (see map) from 1:30pm; look out for the Eastern Counties branded gazebo by a white Citroen 4×4.
We will try to get as close as we can to the entrance from the West Fan Village and we will post our exact location on social media on Saturday morning.
It would be great to see anyone associated with Eastern Counties rugby.
5 March 2017
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My latest RFU Council Member Briefing is available by clicking the link below:
This edition includes an update to the Paying of Players proposals, news of the RFU President for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and thoughts on the first three rounds of the Six Nations.
1 March 2017
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At the February RFU Council meeting we received an update on the Payment of Players proposals. You can read the document by clicking here but in brief the update has recommendations in four areas:
- The financial ranges for payments at certain levels of the game
- Content of the annual declaration
- Regulatory principles to implement proposals
- Loss of entitlements for non-compliance with regulations
The recommendation for the financial thresholds at the various levels is that they should remain the same, but there is an allowance for player/coaches, so at Level 3 an additional £25k can be spent on a player coach, £20k at Level 4 and £15k at Level 5. At Level 6 and below the amount is £10k.
The annual declaration has an extra clause to allow the RFU to request financial or tax documentation and it clarifies that the four club officials who will sign it are the Chairman, President, Treasurer and Hon Secretary. This has been criticised in some quarters as unenforceable but as a contributor to a debate on Facebook said: ‘(A false declaration) will require clubs presenting dishonest financial returns and if it suits some will, but to get away with it they will have to defraud the RFU, the Tax Office and their members’. I think there would be few officials that would want to risk their own or their club’s reputation let alone the sanctions that would follow.
The funding entitlements that clubs that pay higher than the prescribed thresholds would lose have been added to. In my previous article I said that although clubs at Level 6 and below probably would feel some financial pain, those playing at Level 3 to 5 would probably not be very inconvenienced unless they wanted financial help with a facility upgrade.
However, the original list that included travel funding, the supplemental ticket funds and new RFU loans and grants have been added to:
- Existing interest-free loans will be converted into interest-bearing loans
- Previously awarded grants may be subject to a clawback if a club start to pay players above the permitted limits
- Clubs at Levels 3 and 4 will lose the RFU subsidy for Match Officials costs, the effect of which is reckoned to be between £7k and £10k per club
The recommendations stopped short of withdrawing insurance cover and entitlement to international tickets, but the amounts are beginning to be more significant.
You can read the document by clicking here but as ever please feel free to share your comments via the comment button or on Facebook.
1 March 2017
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I was going to write a blog article about the weekend’s Six Nations games but this article by fellow blogger Double Dummy Scissors pretty much mirrors my view:
This weekend, more than any other, provided proof that should you ever feel you know what is going to happen in the sport of Rugby Union, you don’t. We have become heady with this Eddie Jones …
Source: Expect the unexpected
10 February 2017
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Travelling to Cardiff for the Wales v England game I can’t help but think back to the games I have seen at the Principality Stadium. This will be the fifth Six Nations game I have seen there but it was a World Cup warm up game in 2011 which has the fondest memories. It was played in the summer on a beautiful warm sunny day and to be honest I can’t remember who won (I think it was the Welsh). But it was post match when the fun began.
I left the players’ dinner early with fellow Council Member Alex Murphy and went into the city which was a sea of red and white shirts as tens of thousands of English and Welsh supporters flooded the pubs and bars and celebrated the game of rugby and the healthy rivalry between the two nations. Alex and I were wearing our RFU blazers and we were submitted to good-natured banter from both sets of fans. The partying went on late into the night and I as far as I was concerned all was well with the relationship between the two old rivals.
Then came the nightmare of 2013 when an inexperienced England team was intimidated by a hostile crowd in a Grand Slam decider with Wales winning 30-3. Cardiff was not a happy place to be for an Englishman having to watch the Welsh celebrations on the pitch, then walking back to the hotel for the post-match function wearing and England Rugby coat I was verbally abused more than once. It wasn’t any different when England won in 2015 as I was called the same sort of names after that game too.
Clearly, playing England matters for the Welsh rugby fan and I had been fooled into a false sense of camaraderie in 2011, but I should point out that the majority of our friends over the bridge are nothing but good-natured and friendly to the English. This time around I will be better prepared.
Certainly the players will know what to expect and it wouldn’t surprise me if Eddie Jones played them parts of the 2013 game to remind them about the Welsh crowd and how intimidating they can be. His pre-match press conference alluded to Welsh ‘shenanigans’, referring to the attempt two years ago to get the England team out on the pitch early on a very cold evening and make them wait there while the Wales team stayed in the warm. My favourite phrase from Eddie was ‘They’re a cunning lot, the Welsh….they’ve got goats, they’ve got daffodils, they’ve got everything!’. Wales is probably better known for its sheep rather than its goats but I’ll wait to see if either play a part in the Welsh game plan.