Time For Calm Heads
9th April 2007 By Munster Rugby
“I’ll tell you one thing, if they pull the plug on the European Cup he (Serge Blanco) needn’t set foot in this country again. Serge is interested in Serge only.” was the comment attributed to ‘one Irish rugby administrator’ in an article in the Irish Mail on Sunday newspaper.
The same administrator is quoted as saying, “He’s a total egotistical so and so and he’ll be remembered as the man who has destroyed professional rugby in the northern hemisphere”.
Whatever frustrations provoked the outburst and understandable as that frustration must be, presumably France’s legendary full-back was acting in what he believes are the best interests of French club rugby however ludicrous his stated reason that the decision to withdraw is in support of the the English clubs.
And given that privately, English club officials and particularly players want European Cup rugby next year, and that there has been conciliatory noises made by the militants, or more particularly the English ones, since they decided to withdraw from the competitions last week, that type of rhetoric is hardly what is needed at this stage as efforts continue to salvage the situation.
ERC meet next Wednesday and Thursday in an effort to reach some sort of solution to the impasse with their CEO Derek McGrath adopting a much less hawkish and more sensible attitude. “There is always hope,” he says in the same article and concedes that, ” There has been for a number of months now a gap between the various parties around the table.
They’ve been pretty emphatic in what they’ve said for all the reasons that they’ve given. It’s a very public statement but we don’t ever give up hope. We will be doing our best to either have a tournament of some form or to see if there is any way back for the tournament we have now.”
The assertion by this ‘one Irish administrator’ is not just one-eyed, it is injudicious given that representatives of the LNR and PRL are likely to be present at some stage on either Wednesday or Thursday.
It might also be remembered that professionalism was near enough established in France before the inauguration of the Heineken Cup and the French Championship holds primacy in that country’s rugby culture and always will. So the notion that French clubs withdrawal from ERC competition will destroy professional rugby in the northern hemisphere is nonsense.
But if their withdrawal retains the support of the English Premiership clubs, then the professional game in this country could be destroyed. Just here in Ireland. And maybe Scotland. But not in Wales England or France where we would soon see an expanded EDF Energy Cup and some form of Anglo-French competition.
People like Mark McCafferty (PRL) must not be given control of the game and they and their ilk must realise there is life outside the professional tier. It’s a life that helps sustain his more than well paid place in the scheme of things, was there before he arrived and needs to be nurtured. That nurturing and development will be done the respective Unions. McCafferty needs to recognise this.
And that’s why proceedings in Dublin this week are so important. So critical to livelihoods that it is to be fervently hoped that it’s the likes of Derek McGrath who are left to deal with the hawks and not people like this ‘one Irish rugby administrator’ who should be told the meeting is Friday – In Ulan Bator.