I explained to her that in rugby you could support a club but still applaud the opposing side. This did not happen often in football
Tuesday 24 December 1996
The Llanelli backs performed some nifty move and one of them scored a try. My friend and I clapped politely saying: "Well done," or something along similar lines.
"Why are you both clapping?" my daughter asked.
"Because they scored quite a good try," I said. "But you're supposed to be supporting London Welsh," she replied, "not the other lot."
I explained to her that in rugby you could support a club but still applaud the opposing side when they did something praiseworthy. This, I went on, did not happen, or not often, in football, in whose culture her friends had presumably been brought up.
The crowd at Straddy Park, Llanelli's home ground - only 10 miles or so from where her grandparents lived - were, I continued, warming to my theme, famous for applauding the visiting side if they performed meritoriously.
She was, I seem to remember, unconvinced by my short excursion in search of that elusive substance, the spirit of Rugby Union Football. If you supported a team, you supported a team, and that team's opponents were your enemies. This way of looking at things had been creeping into rugby well before this season. But with the game being made professional it has become more pronounced. Certain clubs have helped it on its way. Richmond are a case in point.
Before the match at Richmond pop music is played over the loudspeakers.Nothing wrong with that. Harlequins do the same at The Stoop - old Adrian Stoop must be revolving in his grave at several revolutions per minute - and Wasps do it when they are playing at Loftus Road. I should prefer myself a selection of rousing Sousa marches played, preferably live, by a brass or silver band. But I am getting on a bit now, and tastes differ.
What is objectionable is not what goes on before a match but what happens during it, at Richmond at any rate. If the home side score a try, a short but loud burst of Gary Glitter comes over the loudspeakers. If a conversion or penalty is kicked successfully, we are entertained to a snatch of Roy Orbison's It's Over.
This is quite witty, I suppose, in a silly sort of way. But the performances, whether of Gary Glitter or of Roy Orbison, are put on only when Richmond score. The visiting team might just as well not be present at all; they are non-persons.
This policy of non-recognition seemed particularly strange when Richmond played London Scottish earlier in the season. Theoretically, in terms of fixture lists, it may have been a home match. But as the two clubs share the Richmond Athletic ground, all contests between Richmond and London Scottish are home games for both sides.
I wonder, incidentally, how much longer this arrangement can continue if Richmond are promoted to the First Division. On this occasion Scottish had tried to match Gary Glitter in the stand with some live pipers on the touchline. Just as it was on the field, it was no contest.
Richmond are one of my favourite clubs. They play not only entertaining but powerful rugby. They were unlucky to lose to Sale, to judge by the press reports and by the long excerpt shown on Rugby Special. [Is there, I wonder, any point at all in showing all those short excerpts?] Brian Moore, a more peaceful citizen than he often likes to give the impression of being, was even more unlucky to be sent off.
I take credit for spotting the qualities of the revivified Allan Bateman some weeks before the Welsh selectors did. I am delighted that Scott Quinnell has, through the intercession of a beneficent businessman, Geoff Cartwright, been able to resolve his differences with the Welsh Rugby Union. I hope his brother Craig is picked for Wales as well. And I am pleased that Chris Clark, who used to be an England prospect, put in an appearance at loose- head prop last Saturday.
In short, I wish the club well. I have nothing against Richmond. Long may they prosper, at any rate until the money runs out. I only wish they would now give us a rest from Roy Orbison and Gary Glitter.
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