Bath's shock au revoir to Olly Barkley risks fan anger


The multimillionaire Bath owner, Bruce Craig, is something of a Francophile but a good number of the West Country club's long-suffering supporters are suddenly wondering whether he takes this entente cordiale lark just a little too seriously.

Craig, still a resident of Provence having made his business fortune on the far side of the Channel, flabbergasted the Recreation Ground faithful yesterday by allowing the England midfielder Olly Barkley to sign for the wealthy Parisian club Racing Métro, whom he will join before the month is out.

Barkley may have fallen short at international level, not least because he was messed around by successive England coaching regimes, but he was pure gold dust for Bath – as he proved at Worcester in the first game of this Premiership campaign, when his flawless goal-kicking enabled his side to leave Sixways with a victory they scarcely merited.

Craig, who played for Racing in one of its previous incarnations and is well acquainted with the French club's current owner Jacky Lorenzetti, may see this off-loading as a reasonable piece of business, but many of the folk on the terraces will beg to differ.

Racing, who unlike Bath have qualified for this season's Heineken Cup, identified Barkley as a possible target after finding themselves short of options at outside-half. Juan Martin Hernandez, the celebrated Argentine playmaker, is on Test duty with the Pumas and will be for some weeks yet, while Jonathan Wisniewski and Benjamin Dambielle are struggling with long-term injuries. Permitted under French league rules to sign a so-called "medical joker", they decided to throw big bucks at a man they knew to be out of contract at the end of the season.

Being under pressure at No 10 themselves – neither Stephen Donald, the All Black outside-half, nor the gifted youngster Tom Heathcote have been fit enough to play this season, although Donald has an even-money chance of featuring against London Irish tomorrow – the Bath hierarchy must have been in two minds about letting Barkley go, especially as there was no offer of a transfer fee. But his departure will give the club the chance to make a significant new signing or two while staying within the salary cap.

"When I no longer play the game, Bath will be the club I watch," Barkley commented. "It's in my heart. But this is the opportunity of a lifetime –one I just couldn't ignore. I'd like to thank the club for their understanding."

For his part, the new rugby director, Gary Gold, said he understood the player's decision. "I could not have been more impressed with Olly's attitude since I arrived here: he could not have worked harder," the South African remarked. "But every now and then, an offer lands on the table that a bloke just can't refuse."

Almost as short of hookers as they are of outside-halves, Bath moved yesterday for the former Northampton front-rower Brett Sharman – an injury-prone forward who left the Midlands club under a cloud just before the start of the season after making a tawdry comment about the double Olympic champion Mo Farah on Twitter.

London Welsh have made just one enforced change for tonight's match at Sale, flanker Michael Hills replacing the injured Mike Denbee. Sale have revamped their back row to include Mark Easter and Andrew Powell.

As expected, the Northampton back Ben Foden will miss England's autumn internationals after suffering an ankle ligament injury during his club's Premiership victory at Bath a week ago. Foden, recently moved from full-back to left wing by the national coach Stuart Lancaster, is unlikely to play again this side of Christmas.


Get Adobe Flash player


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas