Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mike Tindall and the muppets at the RFU

Mike Tindall's international rugby career is almost certainly over. His removal from the England elite squad, and fine of £25,000 has made it unlikely that he'll ever pull on the white jersey with the red rose again. His punishment comes after a grainy video of his behaviour in a Queenstown nightclub with a former girlfriend, the day after England's game with Argentina.

It's clear that Mike Tindall had been drinking. So had most of his team-mates, since there was no squad ban on drinking or going to clubs. He also hugged, and was kissed on the head, by a former girlfriend. Er...that's it.

I'm not suggesting that Mike Tindall should have gone unpunished for being the worse for drink in a nightclub at 2am, but the penalty seems extraordinarily harsh. I think it has far more to do with the shambles at the top of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), and the struggle for power between the blazered officials. It looks like current head honcho Rob Andrew is trying to make a point.

Two England officials committed a severe breach of the Rugby World Cup rules by switching the ball before a kick. Their penalty? They couldn't sit on the bench at the next game. So deliberate cheating in a game is a minor offence, compared to having a few beers and being kissed by a former girlfriend?

No-one expects our sports people to be always completely sober and celibate. Bobby Moore and most of his England football colleagues were legendary drinkers. I was at Stamford Bridge many years ago when Bobby Charlton played his last game for Manchester United. He was given an award in the centre circle before the game - a silver cigarette box. Apparently he received a gallon of whisky in the dressing room later.

Having a drink from time to time is not a problem. I have a thick head right now after our team won the school quiz night last evening, and we returned home and drank the prize (some very nice shiraz). wink

Of course, times change. We expect our sports people to set an example. When they transgress, they should be penalised. But the punishment should be fair and proportionate, not a grand public gesture by an official trying to keep his job.

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