Almanack: Sproat seeks to crack the codes

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The Independent Online
HERE is a reliable new year prediction: Ian Sproat, the minister responsible for sport at the Ministry of National Heritage, will continue his behind-the-scenes campaign to promote co-operation between the two rugby codes in this country. Almanack gathers that the minister was alarmed to hear from League bigwigs at a recent dinner that the sport could be bankrupt within five years if action was not taken soon.

So the minister has been having words with, among others, Dudley Wood of the Rugby Football Union. Almanack understands that Wood and Sproat have met on at least three occasions in the last few weeks at official events - and that Wood and Maurice Lindsay of the Rugby League have recently visited the minister in Whitehall. The agenda for the meetings - which Wood and Lindsay attended separately - may have included such controversial matters as ground-sharing between League and Union clubs, and why the All Blacks could play at Anfield, for instance, but not at Wigan.

Mr Sproat's office is suitably cagey when Almanack raises these matters, insisting that they have not been privy to all the meetings their master has had, and muttering such Sir-Humphreyish comments as 'maybe so', 'honest broking' and 'at the end of the day it's up to them', etc, etc. All the same, Almanack would not be surprised to see the Sproat Initiative gather pace during 1994: nor to hear the sound of heads being knocked together before the year is out.

The civil servants are even more reticent on one topic: is it true that pressure from their minister was responsible for the Union-crazy Army's recent decision to allow its troops to form Rugby League teams? 'Oh, you'll have to ask the Ministry of Defence about that,' says Mr Sproat's man, hurriedly.