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Saturday, December 17, 2005

 

Discussions: When violence tramples on the game's fine line

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk
By Mick Cleary
(Filed: 16/12/2005)


Those of us who like their rugby spiced with a touch of brutality do so because we have a precise grid reference for the fine line. On one side exists raw-meat rugby, full of big hits and collisions as well as that diminishing species, the occasional punch-up. It's a basic, visceral experience. Where else can you let loose the beast within? But the line is there, always there. The other side of the divide is a dark place, an area of mayhem and lawlessness. Anything goes.

Rugby does not often descend to those depths. When it does, it is usually yanked back to the bright uplands pretty quickly, usually by the referee's whistle.

Last Saturday, playing for Esher in a veterans' match, John Inverdale had little awareness of anything except the blood that was coursing down his face. He had just taken a boot to the forehead, and a right mess it made.

Inverdale was shepherded to the touchline and swabbed by the sponge man, who was desperately trying to stem the flow. No action was taken at the time, the referee blowing for no side immediately. The game, against Staines Vets, finished 17-17.

Inverdale, 48, and in decent shape despite years of journalistic excess, was playing on the left wing. In what was to be the last play of the game Ray Dudman, the Esher fly-half, leathered the ball downfield. Inverdale set off in pursuit, as did the covering Staines wing. The ball landed end-up, near the try-line, and bounced back over the heads of the two players.

Inverdale swivelled, lost his footing and saw another Staines player get hold of the ball. Inverdale managed to get some sort of tackling grip on the defender's leg. Mistake, as it turned out. The other leg made contact with Inverdale's head, lacerating his brow.

And that, dear reader, is where the fine line exists. Boots and heads shouldn't meet. One man's deliberate stamp is another man's accident, you might say. Ask any rugby player. They know the difference.

The pages of The Daily Telegraph would not normally be taken up with disciplinary matters of an old lags' match. Inverdale, though, is one of ours, as well as being a high-profile BBC presenter. He has not attended any function, business or pleasure, for the past five days, even skipping Sunday's Sports Review of the Year (there might be a few others wishing they'd done the same). He did a stint alongside Denise Lewis for UKTV Sport to be aired this weekend. Inverdale is there in his full gory glory.

The real point of this piece is to highlight the dilemma now facing Inverdale, one which countless rugby players face. What do you do when you're feeling aggrieved?

Complain, and you come over as a wuss, a celebrity softie crying foul in a big man's world.

But what if the citing process fails to unearth sufficient evidence? Should Inverdale consider a civil action? Tricky terrain, that one. Those that argue that every act on a sports field should be subject to the same rule of law as the ordinary civilian takes no account of the fact that Joe Soap doesn't have 10 bells knocked out of him when walking down the street. A rugby player does. And quite legitimately.

It's for this reason, this intense physical Inverdale has put the matter in the hands of his club of which he has been a member for 19 years. He is also rugby manager at Esher. Citing procedures have been issued. That's not a course every club would take. Some might not have the funds to stump up the £200 the RFU request in order to avoid "frivolous or vexatious citings".

It's for this reason, this intense physical confrontation, that the odd punch does get thrown. That, to me, is acceptable.

A boot on the head is something else entirely. The fine line is wrongly labelled. The line is very clear, wouldn't you say?

www.telegraph.co.uk/cleary
Comments:
Not sure if I follow the author. His description of the incident sounds to me like an accident: grabbing a leg, half off-balance, you do risk the chance of getting injured?
How are you going to prove intent?
 
If you don't like the heat....get out of the kitchen  
Ooooops, Now I can't get into the system again

Patrick
 
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