This week we concern ourselves with transfers, hooligans and the June refereeing panel…
This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with transfers, hooligans and the June refereeing panel…
Two big movement stories this week emphasize both that the system of player movement is going to need looking at in terms of regulation soon, and that common sense can prevail even to those for whom money has hitherto been the measure of all power.
The George North saga is going to drag on and it will do Welsh rugby no good at all. Whoever did what first is irrelevant: the bare fact of the matter is that North is set to leave and either the Scarlets – and the other regions – are not prepared to work with the WRU to keep him, or the WRU is keeping something from us – not unheard of.
What is a little flabbergasting is the quote from the WRU in the latest war of words: “The WRU first tabled an offer to discuss centrally contracting Welsh-qualified regional players in August 2012 and has renewed that proposal. No meaningful response from the Regions has been received by the WRU…The WRU has recently discovered that the regions signed an agreement which precludes any of them playing an individual who is centrally contracted to the Union…(the regions should) abandon the practice of selling Welsh-qualified senior players for profit before their contracts are concluded.”
This is really weird. Central contracts have long been seen as a solution to the player drain from Wales, but whatever the WRU have offered must be distinctly unpalatable. On the other hand, maybe it is just not palatable enough to compensate for Welsh regions cashing in on 'transfer fees' when clubs such as Northampton buy players such as North out of his contract a year early.
That latter case certainly would appear to be the more likely, given the drivelly smokescreen nature of the regions' response to the accusations which did little more than refer to the apparent inactivity of the Professional Regional Game Board and bemoan the WRU for asking questions of it.
Either way it is a grim situation, one which Wales could well do without. What is clear though is that money is beginning to talk in terms of transfer fees rather than contract offers, which is worrying. It would be good for some kind of regulation to stop this habit. January windows and such are fun in soccer just for having a good laugh at the ridiculous amounts of money changing hands, rugby does not need this right now.
Which brings us to Mourad Boujellal, who perhaps has bought the game a little time to introduce such regulation and given us a little hint to keep listening to common financial sense at all costs.
Boujellal made an audacious move to bring Martin Castrogiovanni to Toulon, also hoping to buy him out of his contract in Leicester a year early and paying some compensation. Leicester, understandably, named a high price for one of Europe's finest tightheads.
A price which was too high even for the free-spending Boujellal, who said: “…when we do not have sufficient finances to hire a player, we do not.” Hopefully the rest of Europe's clubs pay heed to that, and hopefully we see some swift regulation come into rugby's stirring 'transfer market'. No other sport needs to go down that road.
Not one week after the debacle in the stands in Port Elizabeth, came even sadder news of unruly behaviour at a rugby match, when a fan was beaten to death at King's Park in Durban.
That in itself is odd. King's Park is famed for a good atmosphere and the after-parties and barbecues on the grounds outside are legendary. But this is the second incident we have heard about in the past fortnight – one other one recounted to us privately – of unrestrained fistfights going unhalted and unmentioned.
Even less palatable was the statement released by the Sharks, which fell short of condemning the act but rather reassured whoever might be interested that: “…We have conducted our own internal investigation and are satisfied that our contracted service providers, Fidelity Security and ER24, had done everything possible to assist in stopping the fight on the night.”
Nobody cares about Fidelity and ER24. A fan was beaten to death in Durban. There's been fighting in the stands at Sharks, Kings and Stormers games, which has gone barely noticed, barely mentioned even.
Could someone at SARU and the franchises please stand up and let us know what's being done here? What will it take to provoke a clampdown? Do we need a full-on riot first?
And finally, with the defence of so many fans – both Welsh and neutral – ringing around the circuit, it was a real eyebrow-raiser this week to learn that Steve Walsh had been omitted from the June Test panel.
Obviously it's fuel to the fire of all the English fans still going on about the scrum interpretations in the Six Nations finale, not to mention the fairly blatant infringement that led to Wales' first try, but Walsh really has not been consistently bad in our opinion, certainly not so bad he was set for 'relegation'.
So it leads us into a wider question: we are rather interested to get to know some of the more salient parts of the evaluations made by the IRB following Test seasons or complete tournaments.
If referees are to be celebrated or to be criticised, we'd welcome an informed basis as to why, rather than just to have to assume that they are paying the price for a set of fans' disgruntlement.
The counter-argument runs along the lines of threatening the integrity of the process by making it public, which is reasonable, but it would be good for us to know on what basis such promotions and relegations are made at least – after all, an assumed bias against one team from certain referees is pretty threatening too, wouldn't you say? Ask Bryce Lawrence or Wayne Barnes if you disagree.
Loose pass compiled by Richard Anderson