Rugby Union / The State of the Union: How professional have amateurs become?: Case Study Two: Scott Gibbs

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The Independent Online
SCOTT GIBBS is the one Welsh rugby would not let get away. The serious knee injury that has put the Lions centre out for the rest of the season is bad enough but if, after the Lions tour, he had gone to St Helens, now that would have been real calamity.

At a tender 22, Gibbs stands out as an example of what can be done within the rules to benefit players if the spirit is willing and the readies are forthcoming. It falls far short of professionalism, but neither is it amateurism when a player is set up in work or on a career path by Swansea Rugby Club and the Welsh Rugby Union. At the same time, what is the difference between Harlequins pointing Brian Moore in the right direction and Swansea doing the same for Scott Gibbs?

A couple of years ago Gibbs turned down an offer from Wigan when he was set up as a self-employed marketing man representing Welsh Water and St Pierre Golf Club. There were supposed to be other job opportunities; there weren't. So when St Helens were in for him on his return from New Zealand, he was no less vulnerable.

This time he was fixed up to learn the trade of being a marketing/PR man. Accommodation; no problem. Need a car, sir? Swansea fixed up Gibbs, who is suspended from driving, with one of their own, unemployed young players as driver. 'We take proper advice from the tax people about everything our players get and it falls within the IB regulations,' Mike James, Swansea's chairman, said.

Gibbs's next move will be into the computer industry, where he will learn not only computing but also more about PR; in other words, a career path now lies ahead of him and, most importantly for James and Swansea, it leads away from rugby league.

When he played, James never had any such dilemma. 'When I was at Birmingham University I played for Rugby in 1964 and used to pay 10 shillings (50p) a week to play. That was for your tea and the opposition's tea and when you were a student that could be very difficult. Nowadays it's very different and you are doing the game a disservice if you don't contemplate and accept that fact.'

(Photograph omitted)