A television thing is not the vision thing

You can't avoid the question that if football can arrive at an acceptable compromise between the demands of club and country, why can't rugby?

Compared to the nasty, snarling mess that disfigures English rugby union, the relationship between the controlling influences in English football is almost serene. The English team, plus the other international representatives of these isles, went about their business in the World Cup qualifiers yesterday while the big clubs stood by idly, and apparently happily, awaiting the safe return of their players.

Compared to the nasty, snarling mess that disfigures English rugby union, the relationship between the controlling influences in English football is almost serene. The English team, plus the other international representatives of these isles, went about their business in the World Cup qualifiers yesterday while the big clubs stood by idly, and apparently happily, awaiting the safe return of their players.

We can be certain that the football clubs consider international football to be a pain in the arse and wish it had never been invented but the two sides have learnt to live with each other and, superficially at least, all is sweetness and light between them.

No doubt, had the foot and mouth outbreak not forced the postponement of Ireland's Six Nations match with England in Dublin yesterday, we could have witnessed a similarly peaceful skin-deep situation in rugby. But the game was off and the two factions of clubs and union filled the vacuum with a vitriolic clash of interests that would worry anyone who is concerned with the future of rugby.

You can't avoid the question that if football, where the commercial imperative is vastly bigger and of a more complicated nature, can arrive at an acceptable compromise between the twin demands of club and country, why can't rugby find a basis for agreement? I don't intend to delve into the finer points of the confrontation while better brains than mine attempt to unravel the situation on page 11, but I am prepared to offer the opinion that union could do worse than make a close study of how football's unity was forged.

The first point to recognise is that the truce, and that is all it is, has been achieved by crawling over far rockier ground than that facing rugby. Leagues are a comparatively new feature in union whereas they have been the very spine of domestic football for more than a century.

The Football Association is the older institution but the Football League wielded the professional power; so much so that the formation of the breakaway Premier League at the start of the Nineties was achieved with far less trouble than was envisaged.

This was to a large extent due to the support of the FA, who saw the advantage in allowing the big clubs to break free and raise the upper standards of the game. This ought to have produced a better grade of international player but, regrettably, this has not proved to be the case.

The move has greatly improved the appeal of the domestic game but has yet to manifest itself at international level. This does not bother the clubs. Indeed, if you have been watching the BBC2 programme The Men Who Changed Football you could beforgiven for thinking that some miraculous transformation had taken place and that it was entirely due to the visionary talents of a handful of club directors.

Men like David Dein of Arsenal, Martin Edwards of Manchester United and Irving Scholar, formerly of Spurs, were to be seen agreeing modestly with the premise that it was their entrepreneurship that laid the foundations of the buoyant state of the present game.

I tend to the belief that the men who changed football were to be found mainly on the pitch and, in greater numbers, in the stands. There has never been a great difficulty in selling the national game to the nation. There have been fallow periods in its appeal but these have had causes far more profound than the BBC2 programme was prepared to investigate.

I don't recall anyone saying, "Let's go to Highbury, I hear Dein is a brilliant director." And I may have missed the clamour to watch Scholar take his seat in the Spurs directors' box - was this the man who bequeathed Alan Sugar and then Enic to the game? And how many went to Old Trafford in the hope that Edwards would read the minutes of the last board meeting over the Tannoy before they announced the team changes.

Was this the same Martin Edwards who was going to sell his stake in United to Michael Knighton? Now that really would have been bold advancement of the game's interest.

I don't object to these gentlemen making money out of football. If they were prepared to invest at the right time then they are entitled to any profits that accrue. But I doobject to them taking credit forsuperhuman vision.

Like any business, football is evolving and owes as much to its past as to its present; to the hordes who stood in discomfort, to the players who performed for peanuts and to the directors who invested far more than they ever had a prospect of taking out. And if they failed to develop better grounds this was due mainly to the pig-headedness of successive governments, who insisted on ground improvements being taxed but not transfer fees. Hence, the rise in transfer fees and not in comfortable stands.

Past rulers of the clubs could be accused of failing to release the full potential of the game and there is no doubt that for decades the game sold itself too cheaply. That does not excuse the present accelerating rise in admission fees.

That's why Sunderland should be congratulated for already announcing reduced season ticket prices for next season. The more money they get from television - and don't let them make out that screwing larger fees from television companies calls for great business intellect - the less they should demand from the people who are willing to turn out in all weathers to support their team and flesh out the atmosphere of ourstadiums.

The owners of our top rugby clubs, who on the whole I tend to prefer, have a long way to go before they achieve what they desire. I trust they will persevere andone day they may earn the rightto be as smug as their football counterparts.

---

Rugby will make its final farewells to the much admired Gordon Brown at Troon tomorrow. Since Scotland's fabled Lions forward died last week, tributes to him have been many in number and rich in praise.

One of the most appropriate, and which would have certainly won his approval, took place in the shadow of the Cardiff Arms Park on Wednesday night where several of his team-mates from the 1971 Lions party celebrated his memory.

They had convened not for that purpose but to help Barry John launch a Chinese restaurant. David Duckham, John Bevan and Chico Hopkins were among theformer Lions who were joinedby a throng of more recent Welsh internationals.

Brown was remembered by a minute's silence and, more fittingly, by several hours of rowdy behaviour. His name was still being toasted at dawn. "It was a great night and was dominated by stories of Broonie," said Barry John.

The presence of King John among the king prawns marks his latest venture. It is within 50 yards of the entrance to the Millennium Stadium and called Barry John's Oriental Kingdom - an impressive name based on an original idea by Genghis Khan.

The occasion also marked the publication of a book entitled World in Union, the story of rugby union world-wide, which is published by the International Rugby Board and is the result of two decades of loving research by its editor, Chris Thau.

Lavishly illustrated, it will help entertain you until the international game gets back on its feet. This limited edition of 1,000 copies is priced at £50 and can be ordered by credit card on 0117 977 9188.

---

Among the many sportsaffected by the foot and mouth disease is ballooning. All balloonists in Britain have been banned from taking off, presumably on the grounds that pigs might fly.

Arts and Entertainment
books
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
people
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from the rise of Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

CRM Developer (MS Dynamics 2011/2013, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: CRM MS Dynamic...

IT Teacher

£22000 - £33000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: ICT TeacherLeedsRandstad ...

Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution