Rumours are bouncing around the media this week that there is some secret SRU conspiracy afoot to block Italian entry to the Magners League, and so in return a counter-conspiracy to boot the Scottish pro-teams out of the Magners has been mooted by the Welsh press.
“Scottish teams Edinburgh and Glasgow could be kicked out of the Magners League by their Welsh and Irish counterparts, Scrum V understands” is the quote. Key word being could. I could be a millionaire by next week, Scrum V, but it’s bloody unlikely. Would you write about that?
Oops. I think I just dignified it with a response.
While plane tickets to Italy for 30 plus kit every so often will not come cheap for our cash strapped Union, and the improvement of Italian players may well see us relegated more often to third tier rugby nation rather than scraping by them as we have in the past, surely the inclusion of the Italians is good for the game of rugby in the long term? It does, after all, spread the gospel of this great game to a country with a big potential player, supporter and financial base that can already get 80,000 to turn up for a game they have no chance of winning. When we try that, we get 30,000 Kiwis turning up and making us feel like the away team in our own stadium.
Whether or not any of these rumours are true – it came from the headline-loving rumourmongers at Scrum V after all – remains to be seen, but the SRU are furiously denying that any such ultimatum has been issued. Although they are not exactly denying a block either, merely doing the Leo McGarry sidestep (reject the premise of the question, for you non West Wing fans) by saying they are pro Italy in principle but hey, let’s discuss the management structure instead. As a generic SRU spokesman said:
“With the Italians coming in, we feel we need to up our game and professionalise the set-up of the Celtic League and we need to get that agreed in advance and as soon as possible.”
Which all seems fair enough. With a coordinated league administration you can make sure things run smoothly (which the SRU probably can’t do), negotiate TV rights from a position of power (which the SRU definitely can’t do), and hold Unions to ransom over player release (ok maybe they wouldn’t want to do that) – all the fun things they do in England and France.
The problem, presumably, is that there is cash revenue to come in from the Italian job and everyone can’t wait to get their hands on it, so delaying it till next season is not an option. Everyone knows ours is the most cash-strapped Union, so if the SRU were still insisting on a professional management structure despite the promise of what must be a desperately appealing cash injection, they must have a good reason. Or maybe they just want to make sure their voice is heard in any new set-up? If that is the case, it could be a dangerous game of roulette they are playing down at Murrayfield.