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Time to clear it up

Transparency will help RFU go forward, says Stuart

Stuart Barnes Posted 28th November 2011 view comments

Was the leaking of the three reports really such a betrayal?

The state of English rugby was described, first by Rob Andrew and then by Martin Johnson, as somewhere near 'rock bottom' but it seems that the lowly position has been conflated with the leaks, as if we were not already swimming with the sand sharks.

Enlighten us: Johnson should stand up and demand clarity, says Stuart

Enlighten us: Johnson should stand up and demand clarity, says Stuart

Had England not been so poorly led on and off the field throughout and for three years prior to the World Cup there would not have been one, let alone three reports, to leak.

"Disgusting" was one of the words Andrew used; I had exhausted my use of that particular word by the time England had completed their 100 per cent winning and 90 per cent clueless pool phase campaign.

Why doesn't Twickenham make the whole thing public? Put it out on the RFU website so we can all see the distortions for what they are. The players have already been 'betrayed' but in the interests of balance and objectivity the only proper option is to go the whole way.

Stuart Barnes
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England didn't appear as serious contenders before or during the World Cup.

That, from the perspective of anyone that cares for England is truly 'disgusting'.

Rocking

In an ideal world, of course, the betrayal of trust is unacceptable.

One should not promise people the privacy of a closed hearing and find the comments (all still anonymous let us not forget) in the public domain. But we do not inhabit some Utopian world where England have the right men in the right jobs and where everyone is working for the sake of the country's team and not their own survival.

Alas, in our grubby world, where idealism disappears sometimes it takes something that is morally dubious in the short term to get the right long term result. Amongst our readers, who believes much of the report would have seen the light of day? And without any level of transparency who believes it would have shaken Twickenham to its foundations as it undoubtedly has? And Twickenham, I am sorry to say, needs some serious metaphorical rocking right now.

The RFU is not like most other businesses. Now, I am not as au fait with the corporate world - like many of my fellow journalists - as Andrew, but I am aware of some of the painful jargon that emanates from the corporate mouth.

The RFU, as a business representing a national sporting aspiration of millions of people, has (here we go and sorry for the ugliness of the cliché, folks) a responsibility to its stakeholders.

The RFU love to call all the fans and clubs and followers of the game 'stakeholders', it makes them sound so sharp-suited does it not? But when we stakeholders could really do with knowing what is going on behind the scenes, forget it. We are way out of the loop.

Let the report be analysed in the privacy of well-carpeted offices and we'll be thrown what the RFU chooses to lob us. Thanks. That will not do, we are, after all, you and I, stakeholders. Morally the right thing might just have been to do the wrong thing and leak the report.

Accountable

The manner of the reporting is another thing altogether and understandably Johnson is going to be upset with the distortions of the headline grabbing quotations.

I don't blame him. His analysis of how the media works was clear sighted. So here is the thing. Why doesn't Twickenham make the whole thing public? Put it out on the RFU website so we can all see the distortions for what they are. The players have already been 'betrayed' but in the interests of balance and objectivity the only proper option is to go the whole way.

Remember, players' quotations have been leaked but not the identities and that is not going to happen. The minute the interviews were over the name of the interviewee was eradicated. Only the players know which of them said what.

It is a little like the Wikipedia leaks. The establishment hates it because it reveals things they would prefer concealed. There are short-term moral conundrums but the size of them is escalated in order to convince the rest of us that the actual leaking is worse than the lies and deceit uncovered.

Authority has to be accountable, and this applies to the RFU as much as any government. Was Watergate for the good or bad?

I am not trying to link high politics and the RFU but rather the nature of the establishment's response to the fact of leaking. Like I say, in an ideal world, it is abominable to see trust betrayed and promises not kept but the deeper bond of trust between the Union and the people who follow the national team has been severed and that is where the greater threat to the game lies. If English rugby is rock bottom it is because of what the management, the administration and players have failed to do, not what they have been reported as doing.

Disclosed

I reiterate my advice. Johnson says it has unfairly damaged the reputation of him and his coaches because of the distorted nature of the reporting.

He may well be right but there's only one way to find out. He should stand up and demand the whole 101 pages are opened up to the eyes of everyone. The RFU can explain this to the players on the grounds that individuals have been tarnished by the leaks.

Everyone with a sense of decency would understand that in the interests of fairness the entirely anonymous report has to be 100 per cent disclosed to the public domain. The RFU cannot trust its own employees and it does not trust the media but surely it has faith in its stakeholders.

The RFU can use this 'disgusting' occurrence to show some transparency and enable us all to see that things are not as bad as the newspapers claimed. It has a moral obligation to those whose reputations have been tarnished and it has an opportunity to get closer to a public who I am sure would be fascinated to read the minutiae and arrive at their own conclusions. The report would no longer be anonymous but the players would remain so.

Again, in the interests of the unfairly castigated management who many of the players claimed should remain in place in public pronouncements, isn't it now a moral duty to let us see all the comments in their less explosive, non-controversial non-glory?

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Bring on Bren!

Why has no one suggested someone like Brendan Venter for the England manager's job - someone to stand up to the blazers of Twickenham?! I like the idea of he and Nigel Davies working together with Rowntree supporting (would have been even better to get Shaun Edwards in as well- another lost opportunity). With that in mind, here's the elite squad I would pick if I were the England manager...

Starting line up: 1.Sheridan 2.Hartley (c) 3.Cole 4.Lawes 5.Easter 6.Croft 7.Robshaw 8.Haskell 9.Youngs 10.Flood 11.Sharples 12.Twelvetrees 13.Tuilagi 14.Ashton 15.Foden

Subs: 16.Gray 17.Corbisiero 18.Palmer 19.Waldrom 20.Simpson 21.Farrell 22.Brown

Squad: George, Stevens, Marler, Attwood, Wood, Care, Hodgson, Trinder. Jack Tracey

STUART REPLIES: Jack, Brendan Venter - surrounded by a good coaching team - is a fair call; as for the team, I am not so sure about Dylan Hartley as captain if you are going to include Chris Robshaw in the team. The Harlequin would be my idea of a fresh start. Haskell at eight and no Wood? Even less sure and I wouldn't mind seeing Owen Farrell sooner than later...still it's all a matter of opinion.

John's Kings in waiting

Stuart - as a delighted Harlequins fan, just a couple of points for you. It was a very physical game against Newcastle but the lads came through really well, I thought. I know there's a long way to go, but can we go all the way? Do we have enough strength in depth? Also, how can a 'professional' referee send the WRONG player to the sin bin? As much as I enjoyed winning, it wasn't right that Chris Pilgrim went. Another blunder for union to absorb!!! Isaac, Norfolk

STUART REPLIES: Isaac, I cannot add anything further to your comment about referees sending the wrong man to the bin. It's almost funny isn't it? As for Quins, nothing funny about your team. They are superbly motivated, well captained on the field and adroitly set up off it. I have not always agreed with John Kingston's views but right now he appears to have matured into an outstanding technical coach. His work at the maul is quite superb. He is doing so well that, typically, no-one has mentioned his name as a potential England's forwards coach. I am sure Harlequins will be delighted to keep it that way.

Comments (4)

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Tom Langford says...

Flood isn't the answer to a creative and world class back line, nor is Cipraini. I watched the barbarians at the weekend and was very disappointed with Cipraini's performance. He does tend to go missing at points throughout the game, I suppose he's just not a team player. I strongly believe, and have done for some time, that there is no better english fly half than Geraghty (on his day). But like Australis have done with Cooper, you have to stick by Geraghty and like with any player take the ups with the downs. Ashton was a much better player when Geraghty was in the saints side as Geraghty created the holes for Ashton to run on to. This is what England need, a player that create for the talented backline outside. Geraghty - your country need you. Get back playing soon

Posted 13:04 1st December 2011

Ted Watts says...

Stuart, We constantly hear that the RFU has enormous sums of money in the coffers (maybe they could bail out the PIIGS..) and the largest pool of players, so why don't we go for Robbie Deans? I appreciate he is still employed but he has done wonders with the Aussies, whilst having the foresight to get rid of the old and bring through youth. I know it is going down the football road of poaching opposition managers, but if we strive to be the best then we need to be ruthless in doing so. Cheers.

Posted 16:26 29th November 2011

Jeff Badland says...

I think Johnson is probably to blame for the current Euro crisis too. I would give all the money in the world to have one debate with you Stuart.

Posted 18:45 28th November 2011

George Staples says...

Spot on Stuart! The othger 'disgusting' point not mentioned was that Rob Andrew (teflon) is still around and appears to be orchestrating the future of the R.F.A. Am I being naive, or should Rob Andrew do the decent thing and RESIGN, who is there to get rid of him? I'm glad I'm a rugby league follower, despite the defeat v Australia there were no let downs, indiscipline or drunkness to write about. Those players are honest, hard working professionals. George

Posted 16:26 28th November 2011

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