A ‘Bozo’? An Arrogant? A Vandal, perhaps? What descriptor should one use for the Barbarian XIII, the self-absorbed group of rugby players who caused the cancellation of the England versus Barbarians match last weekend?
Unsurprisingly, the majority of players were from the Saracens club, who had a coffee shop COVID breach back in May and who, over recent years, have made a big deal about ‘culture’.
The culture, especially given the club’s disregard for the financial rules of the English Premiership to such an extent that they will be in the second tier next season, seems to be “we will do whatever the hell we like with no thought for anybody else.”
After the May incident the club released a statement saying, ‘we are confident this will never happen again’.
But why should we care way over here in the Antipodes?
It is about the impact on others and the underlying ethos of our game for which this group have zero regard.
The England versus Barbarians Club game was, of course, cancelled, not only because this group of individuals broke curfew on the Wednesday night and initially denied it until the video came out, but also because they did the same thing on Tuesday night and then trained with their teammates the following day.
Let’s not just put ourselves at risk, we will put the entire squad in the firing line.
To be clear, this was primarily a group of individuals who play their code in London, this was not a Barbarians get out and explore experience, this was simply – ‘all about me’
Let’s just have a look at the impact of the game being cancelled.
The game was to be played in recognition of Matt Ratana, the New Zealand-born London policeman who was recently killed in the line of duty.
A man who has given his life to our code at a lower level and who was an active member of the East Grinstead Rugby Club in Sussex. There was to be a minute’s applause for Matt prior to kick off, a tribute to him was to be played on the big screen and England and New Zealand rugby jerseys were to be laid on the pitch with his Police tunic.
The players, who as we know wear club socks when playing for the Barbarians, were to wear one East Grinstead Rugby Club sock for the day. In addition to this, the game was to recognise all those who had lost their lives to COVID in England – but now that’s all gone.
Still worth going out for a beer and lying about it was it boys? Matt Ratana means more to our game than the lot of you put together.
But that’s not all.
There were seven Fijian rugby players in that squad who just had their biggest payday ripped from them. Four thousand pounds was the match fee I understand – any idea how many games you need to play for an underfunded Pacific nation to be earning that sort of coin?
And while the money was major, by telling no one of their exploits and training with these guys on the Wednesday, they put Fiji’s participation in the Autumn internationals at risk.
Fine these Bozos, (I think that’s the collective noun to be settled on) as hard as possible and make sure the Fijian players and their rugby union are made whole from the exercise, with a few more pounds thrown in for good measure.
The financial impacts themselves are not immaterial.
The RFU drop one million pounds with the game being cancelled. This is an organisation that has been through three rounds of redundancies in the last twelve months, shedding over 250 jobs by my count, 100 of those in community rugby roles. I wonder how many of those community rugby jobs could be supported by an extra one million pounds in the kitty?
The Barbarians, a club with significant charitable works associated with them, are themselves a commercial enterprise and they play only one or two fixtures a year – this is massive dent in their revenue stream.
Anyone keeping tab of how much each one of the pints drunk by this bunch is worth so far?
It did, of course, take away the only match practice the England side would have got prior to their Six Nations game this weekend against Italy, a game in which they played to win the competition.
Can you imagine the consequences of the COVID Bozos not being found out until after the Barbarians game when all the England players would have been exposed outside of their bubble, no game against Italy for sure, and any positive test results would have seen them out of the Autumn internationals?
This is genuinely, mind-numbingly stupid.
Their actions were thoughtless and self-centred, their initial denial of the actions is inexcusable, and their apologies are trite and worthless when compared to the bigger picture of not only actual the actual damage caused, but the potential damage at risk.
Good on the RFU for charging them, now have the courage of your convictions to throw the book at them.