Rugby Union: Brittle's black magic of dogma turns Wray from a dove to a hawk

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The Independent Online
CLIFF BRITTLE may be a man of many talents, almost all of them confrontational, but no one suspected the fundamentalist chairman of the Rugby Football Union's management board of being a closet magician.

He has, however, pulled off the conjuring trick to end them all by transforming a dove into a hawk before the very eyes of an astonished sporting population.

The former dove in question is Nigel Wray, the mild-mannered millionaire owner of Saracens, who took time out from celebrating his club's well- earned place in this season's Tetley's Bitter Cup final to declare that he had finally run out of patience with Brittle and his acolytes. "We have to bring this to a head right now," he said in response to Brittle's rejection of plans to expand the Allied Dunbar Premiership and his threat to deny the clubs some pounds 2.5m in grant and competition money.

"I'm not in the least a confrontational person but we have to confront this immediately. There is simply no point in talking about this any more; we simply cannot go into next season on the same shambolic basis as we went into this one. Brittle's latest communication with us is stupid and absurd, but it does serve the purpose of defining the issues. The union is intent on beating the clubs around their heads with a big stick.

"There will be no progress until Twickenham accepts that the clubs are individual economic units. We have agreed a fixture list for next season that does not involve us shutting down our clubs for weeks at a stretch and in my view, we should simply say: `This is what we intend to do'. As far as I am aware, Cliff Brittle is not a shareholder in Saracens RFC. Therefore he is not entitled to tell us what to do."

The clubs have already taken legal advice over Brittle's cash threat and they are considering serving him with a writ.

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