Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Matt O'Gonner

Since rugby union went professional, fans have often scoffed as their sport gradually took up some of the less desirable habits of their rival association football.

Crazy salaries or football money as the fans would say has become commonplace in France (Dan Carter is soon to become the first €1 million per annum player) and with the pressure on the salary cap in the Aviva Premiership the same will probably begin to occur in England also. Transfer fees while not common place have begun to raise their head with George Norths' move to Northampton & Steffon Armitages' proposed move to Bath being 2 of the more noteworthy examples of late. There are other examples with Bryan Habana recently accused of diving in an attempt to con a penalty from the referee and that's without comparing 'Bloodgate' to the many tricks football managers are accused of orchestrating from the sidelines.

One ‘Habit’ which up until now has not become the norm in rugby is the release of managers and head coaches mid season. Thankfully one might say Irish rugby fans have been able to look down their nose at those across the channel and the Irish Sea who are making their game more like soccer with their high wages and transfer fees. Alas the next football ‘Habit’ seems about to rare its head in club rugby for the first time only this time it might begin in Ireland.

Club football managerial dismissals across the world have been characterized by fan pressure and mid season dismissals. The reasons generally being a concern for the short term future of the club be that because of relegation or failure to qualify for European competition possibly combined with an uninspiring transfer policy and a style of play which is not aesthetically pleasing.

Until now financial cliff drops due to relegation or competition qualification requirements have not been a feature of rugbys premier domestic and international competitions with the French Top 14 the only real exception (Premiership Rugby has financially protected its founding members during relegation so they don't quite qualify) . However with a new system of qualification and seedings for the Rugby Champions Cup ( Europe's new premium rugby competition) a middling Leinster league campaign may suddenly result in a season where Leinster are very much out of the limelight and possibly a loss making entity when one considers the disparity in income between the Guinness Pro 12 & the Champions Cup. In addition to this reviewing the much reduced media profile of the lower level of European competition will not generate much positive chatter around Donnybrook. On current form Leinster could find themselves competing in that competition next November should their pattern of under performance continue to the 6 nations when they will become shorn of many of their first choice players.

For this reason their January 3rd clash with Ulster (who through IRFU mismanagement have been left in a coaching middle ground themselves) has suddenly become very important. While patient and loyal with many of their former coaches (yes I include Declan Kidney and Eddie O'Sullivan in that observation) the union may well peer at managerial sackings in that other code and decide payoffs and mid season dismissals aren't such nasty words after all. When the bottom line is affected ,being holier than their stadium co-tenants should suddenly become very unimportant.

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