Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The self-righteous act of the IRFU and Irish media

IRFU media

Throughout the recent European dispute, the Irish media has stuck firmly to the IRFU narrative, one that manages to be self-righteous and hypocritical.

"You might as well read an
ERC script": Brian Moore on
the Irish media.
When former English hooker Brian Moore described the Irish media as "tame" and saying he no longer bothers with them as "you might as well read an ERC script", it was a rather generous understatement. Over the course of this European battle, the Irish media has been vociferously on tune with the IRFU in their stance.

Much of the media has portrayed the IRFU through the Disney-fied narrative of "good honourable little guys battling big greedy corporate business", with the IRFU in it to protect the wider interests of the game as a whole and the English and French opponents as self-interested, jealous, bullying and not caring about the wider game. There are numerous examples that can be cited of this from the most prominent media outlets and personalities, right down to fan forums.

L-R: Neil Francis & Donal Lenihan
are two good examples of those who
have followed the IRFU's self-
righteous narrative.
Proclamations of the moral high ground have barely been hidden. Donal Lenihan claimed the IRFU were "the only honourable Celt" and were "occupying the moral high ground, protecting interests of Scottish, Italian and Welsh rugby". Shane Horgan bizarrely mentioned how the IRFU were "all of a sudden worrying more about that (Italy and Scotland) than the actual countries themselves".

A lot of the focus though has been on the IRFU's opponents, LNR and PRL. "Smug Anglo-French brigands" (according to Neil Francis who’s been especially prevalent on this issue), who declared "a war on rugby" (according to Tony Ward).

Many more articles and instances could be pointed to, but you should be able to get the general picture of the narrative. A quick visit to a fan forum such as MunsterFans for example, or comments left on articles elsewhere makes it quite clear that the IRFU script has been well distributed to the hands of many supporters as well. The problem is though that the IRFU narrative happens to be hypocritical and lacking in self-awareness.

In the IRFU’s official 2013 report there was referenced a "grab for money and power" by PRL with no concern for the wider good of the game, and it's here where the hypocrisy and lack of self-awareness of the narrative becomes apparent.

Are their opponents self-interested? Were they after money and power? Well of course, problem is that is exactly what the IRFU are too and were battling for as well, and indeed everybody involved at the end of day was naturally in it for their own interests.

It just so happened though that the IRFU already had the favourable status quo of a Union dominated ERC setup, based in Dublin with an ex-Irish international as CEO in charge, which was well suited and beneficial to their interests for numerous reasons mostly revolving around money and power over the game.

And what of being in it to "protect the smaller nations", the "Pro12 fraternity" and the wider interests of the game?

Again the idea of a "Pro12 fraternity" was always erroneous; it was never about that and all about what maintaining ERC governance and what was preferable to the IRFU's interests. If the IRFU were so concerned about others interests then maybe they wouldn't have complained so hard when RRW and the SRU pursued them, and maybe they would be left with more than the WRU as their one remaining ally (and hardly an ideal ally at this point of time).

Despite the Irish blazers talking of their
opponents harming the wider game and
smaller nations, their defeat was welcome
news for the ENC nations. The IRFU were
left with the ERC dead, and the WRU their
only remaining ally towards the end.
But the "protecting the little guys" or "wider game as a whole" narrative becomes even more hypocritical when you consider the European nations outside of the 6 Nations.

The IRFU's policies widely go against the interests of the ENC nations, to the extent that France back giving them more of a say with the knowledge they would almost certainly sweep the votes. There was next to no support from the ENC nations towards ERC who were largely negligent towards them and their demise and reduction of Union control was largely welcomed.

So the IRFU were essentially telling those with slightly more clout in PRL and LNR to do what's best for their interests "for the wider good of the game", whilst also simultaneously backing harmful policies to those below in the ENC who they have more power than. That just smacks of hypocrisy and a lack of self-awareness.

Hopefully in the future we will see a more honest approach from the IRFU and Irish media who seem to be well off the pace on various other nation's affairs right now.


  1. Jeremy Duxbury8/7/14 9:03 pm

    Too true. Where is the 6 Nations relegation/promotion issue at currently? Any sign of Portugal, Romania, Georgia, Spain etc getting a crack in the near future?

  2. Jeremy

    Have you any clue as to the margin of defeat that would be inflicted on "Portugal, Romania, Georgia, Spain etc. " by any of the 6 Nations teams? Such a defeat would put back development in the relevant country by decades.

  3. The bottom line in all of these manoeuvrings has always been just that, the Bottom Line.

    It has always been about the money. BT want to "own the game" in the words of one of their senior executives. The PRL and the LNR wanted a bigger share of the loot. The PRL made a deal with BT, the SRU eventually sided with them and lo and behold, Glasgow and Edinburgh get a lucrative sponsorship deal with ......BT.

    The Welsh regions sided with PRL and the LNR and hey presto they land a deal with ......BT.

    and another thing, If the ERC are so evil and incompetent, why, according to the telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/european-rugby/10955459/European-Rugby-Cup-officials-seconded-to-run-the-inaugural-European-Rugby-Champions-Cup.html have their officials been asked to run the new Super Duper Cup for next season?

  4. Piquet,
    I would dare to argue that that margin of defeat might be shockingly narrow for the 6 nations supporters. i am not talking about wales versus spain, because that would be a clear massacre, but Romania/Georgia vs Italy/Spain could be really close, and if those games were to be held in Tbilisi or Bucharest you might even have an upset.
    and even if the margin were to be that terrible, it is still not a good enough of a reason to keep rugby a game for 12 nations. if tire 2, 3 teams don't get good fixtures against stronger teams this sport will not grow...

  5. Perhaps a combined tier 2 team might be able to acquit itself reasonably well against the lowest of the six nations team, but to allow an individual team to be "fed to " England or France would do more harm than good.

    Remember what was effectively the Irish third team beat Romania recently, getting a bonus point.

  6. it was merely a second Romanian side filled with 5-6 debutants

  7. Jeremy Duxbury9/7/14 9:00 pm

    Er, Piquet, no need for condescension, thank you. The same thing was said about Italy before they joined in 2000, yet they won their first ever 6 Nations game against Scotland, and have since beaten France, Wales, Ireland and Scotland again (many times). The best way to develop second tier unions is to allow them the chance to play more established teams. The biggest hinderance you can impose on their development is to keep them in the backwaters and not them let challenge themselves. That currently happens in Europe with the 6 Nations and in the SH with Oz and NZ refusing to play any of the Pacific Island teams away from home.

  8. Jeremy Duxbury9/7/14 9:02 pm

    So, you think such matches are good enough for the World Cup, but not good enough for the Six Nations?

  9. No, Jeremy, when Italy joined the six nations in 2000, it was because of their performances over the previous few years. They beat Ireland in 1995, and twice in 1997. They beat France in 1997 and Scotland in 1998. They lost to England 23-15 in 1998 in Huddersfield.

  10. Jeremy Duxbury9/7/14 10:04 pm

    And that is also my point... Italy had regular games against the Five Nations teams in those days. Now, the top nations just look after themselves and IRB does precious little to make rugby a world game because it's a closed shop at the top in terms of executive positions. How often do teams like Romania and Georgia get to play the likes of Italy and France now? Hardly ever now. Italy have only played Romania once in the last 10 years – at the 2007 RWC when there was a 6-point difference. They last played the Scots at the 2011 RWC and lost 34-24.

    Of course, the Six Nations unions will vote against having relegation/promotion because they are all inwardly looking even if it would be great for rugby as a whole.

    In football, the European Championships include ALL members, not just the elite. Sure, they are thrashings but those smaller teams improve by being included, like Iceland who beat Norway & Slovenia last year and almost made it to the World Cup finals. And in cricket, I remember the complaints from English journos when Sri Lanka were given Test status, but look at them now – winners of the ICC World Cup, something not yet achieved by England.

  11. Jeremy, you're not comparing like with like. In the six nations, Romania, for instance, would be playing five top tier teams and would get a thrashing from each which would, as i said above would do them more harm than good.
    In the World Cup, they would be in with, at most, two top tier sides, the other two teams would be closer to their standard.

  12. Jeremy Duxbury9/7/14 10:21 pm

    Please see my point above re Romania versus Italy and Scotland. Of course, if you want rugby to remain as a sport for the elite few and not develop amongst other nations, then yes a closed shop is the best way to go. But in my view rugby will never ever become a world sport until it becomes a democracy rather than an old boys club. Fiji are twice RWC 7s winners, twice RWC quarter-finalists, have been playing Test rugby for 101 years, yet are not allowed to be part of the IRB Council, which is run by the elite.

  13. And your point is ... ? People wanted money, no shit Sherlock.

    You forgot to mention the IRFU in that list, who wanted PRL and LNR to keep subsidising them via an imbalance of the revenue distribution.

  14. Jeremy Duxbury10/7/14 12:32 am

    And in order to compete, they need to be included. I agree totally that there needs to be a system like the RWC qualifiers that includes everyone but has tiers (so that a smaller team still has the chance to progress if they do well). But in Europe, when they get to the top of Tier 2, they get stopped by the bolted doors of the Six Nations that won't let anyone else in. In SH, Samoa defeated the Wallabies in 2011 away from home, yet the Wallabies have never been to Apia. Not once. Why? Because it suits them to help keep the Pac Island nations in the backwaters so that they and NZ can continue to cherry pick the best players. Look at the current Wallabies squad and see how many islanders are in there – they had followed NZ's example. Probably same reason why Italy never play Romania anymore – because they are scared they might lose occasionally and thus have pressure put on them to have promotion/relegation in the Six Nations.

  15. The head of the ERC is a Frenchman. Which tells one as much as one needs to know about the quality of this "rant".

  16. The chairman is a figurehead, the CEO in charge of operations was former Irish international Derek McGrath perhaps I should have been more clear on that.

    So congratulations, you have found absolutely nothing that detracts from the arguments being made. Try again.

  17. Nice rant...any actual evidence to back it up or is it just more anti irish hysterical whingeing?

  18. 1. I would feel confident in backing up the points made.
    2. It was more just intended merely to point out ignorance and lack of self-awareness than to "whinge" to be honest. After all this is supposed to be covered from the ENC nations point of view. The reduction of Union control over the domestic scence, which their preferable outcome, has happened.

  19. Beeman, please email me, dlyle@unitedworldsports.com