Tuesday, 25 August 2009

a bloody mess

tom williams The shenanigans around the disgraceful behaviour of Harlequins rugby union club is a bloody mess. The basic story is that Tom Williams, a Quins player, burst a blood capsule in his mouth faking a blood injury and therefore enabling his team to send on a specialist kicker in the last few minutes of a game. The ploy didn’t work because Quins lost the match against Leinster and more significantly their ruse was spotted by the authorities. The matter was investigated and the player found guilty, banned for a year and Quins were handed a large fine of 300,000 Euros.

That would have been the end of the matter except the player was understandably upset at being the fall guy for the club. Williams appealed the decision and when he made it clear that he would offer full disclosure the Director of Rugby Dean Richards resigned admitting that this was one of a number of occasions that the club had behaved in this way. At the appeal Richards was banned for 3 years, the physio who had since moved on to work for England RFU was banned for 2 years and Williams’ ban was reduced to 4 months. The club had its fine increased and was required to pay up straight away. The appeal panel determined that it had no jurisdiction over the club doctor who was suspected of having cut Williams’ mouth to maintain the subterfuge. Can there be a more serious accusation in medicine than that a medic deliberately inflicted a wound to cover a lie?

Today Williams’ evidence has been disclosed as the full judgement of the appeal panel has been released and what has bechamiltonome clear is that this player was put under massive pressure by the club to limit his evidence and save the club, management and back up staff. The whole matter stinks and is somewhat reminiscent of Lewis Hamilton being encouraged to lie to race stewards by his bosses at McLaren after a F1 race earlier this season.

What a sorry tale. A young player pressurised to maintain a lie. A distinguished former international resigning and confessing only once it was clear the truth would come out. Medical professionals compromising their calling. The management of a great club with a proud tradition pathetically attempting to avoid the consequences of its miserable dishonesty. The authorities having to drag the truth out of all those involved. One of the most pathetic moments in the affair was listening to Jerry Guscott, another former international and BBC summariser, being interviewed on the radio trying to suggest that everyone cheats if they can get away with it as he sought to defend his mate Richards.

I really like rugby; I played it and take great enjoyment from watching it, but something seems to be going wrong and has been for some time. I remember watching an international player cheat blatantly at a crucial stage of a key match and being commended by commentators for his cunning. Earlier this year the South African coach tried to excuse one of his players deliberately digging his fingers into an opponents eyes. Bath RFU is mired in the scandal of several of its players being sacked or suspended for failing drugs tests or refusing to take the tests.

Footballers are constantly slated for their behaviour on and off the pitch and Rugby Union is often cited as an example that football should learn from. Just imagine if a football player had been asked to fakEscapeToVictorye an injury, then an injury had been deliberately inflicted and everyone encouraged to lie to cover it up. We’d never hear the end of it. To my knowledge it’s only happened once in football and that was in the film Escape to Victory, when the goalkeeper had his arm broken so that Sly Stallone could take his place. How far Rugby Union has fallen when it ends up as a poor parody of a second rate footy film!

1 comment:

sadbuttrue said...

Totally agree with you! As a rugby fan, I am appalled at the behaviour of Harlequins and their ex-national team coach. They should be thrown out of the competition, nay, even the league.

A sport that has for so long been above reproach of 'professionalism', with this and the Bath débacle, it will take a long time to restore it's reputation as 'the sport of animals, played by gentlemen'!

Yet another example of the damage that money does to sport and sports people - bring back the amateur game!