SPORTS LETTERS

The rugby union debate The dispute between the Rugby Football Union and England's top clubs over who should run the newly professional game and how the new money coming into the game should be shared out has divided Independent readers. Here is a selection of your views
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From N J Alexander

Sir: I happened to be in Australia 12 months ago when the two main state unions announced their professional status in the wake of Rupert Murdoch's corporate takeover of Rugby League. The reaction of the then RFU secretary, Dudley Wood, was embarrassing to say the least. His patronising comment regarding Australian "panic" was tactless and his view that the Murdoch announcement was "an opportunity for us to distance ourselves from the professional sport" severely short-sighted and flawed.

Players, journalists and many southern hemisphere administrators had been predicting the onset of the professional game for years and yet only five months before Armageddon the RFU were still blindly preaching their antiquated faith.

The infamous Carling fiasco, was timed just before the England squad left for South Africa after months of training and sacrifice by the players. The sheer incompetence of this self-centred over-reaction was a sickening response to the players' commitment.

Now we find ourselves at a crossroads. The future of the Five Nations is in jeopardy and the terrible prospect of the Lions never making it to South Africa in looming. By yet again demonstrating bad judgement, the RFU is alienating England - even from the other home unions. The hard work of rugby people over many years is being ruined and the situation has now become intolerable to supporters and players alike.

Steve Bale's article of 18 April summed up what many fans and club administrators already knew. We have a bunch of self-important amateurs running our professional sport.

Yours,

N J ALEXANDER

London W11

From Mr G Cowan

Sir: So Donald Kerr has told Cliff Brittle to "Sort it out or get out", a message that most rugby administrators are anxious to deliver to Mr Kerr himself and the rest of the new breed that seem to have recently appeared on the scene.

While the greedy antics of the handful of clubs involved in Epruc fill your column inches, the vast number of RFU clubs have had to wait to learn what is to happen to all their teams next season, as the fixture lists cannot be settled until we learn whether this Epruc lot are going or staying.

Mr Kerr should not forget that Cliff Brittle was voted into office by a huge majority of ordinary RFU clubs specifically to look after their interests now. But the greedy, bullying tactics of Epruc are causing the rest of the rugby membership to lose patience with them.

As the fixture secretary for my local club, I cannot believe that at this stage in the season, I have not been able to organise a single fixture for any of my club's senior sides for next year.

Mr Kerr, the time has come to call your bluff. Please carry out your threat and leave the RFU as quickly as possible and push off to bankruptcy with the rest of your ilk or accept what you are being given at the rest of the RFU's expense. The senior clubs have lived off the backs of the junior clubs for years, so now "put up or shut up". Then, at least, the hundreds of honorary fixture secretaries around the country can get on with sorting out their B XV's fixtures for next season.

Yours,

GEOFF COWAN

Maidenhead

From Mr D Davies

Sir: As an elected founder member of the major clubs sub-committee of the Seventies, the first direct club representation on the RFU, and as chairman of the Northern Rugby Union Leagues Action Committee in the Eighties, I have helped in some way to bring more success, democracy and fairness to all levels of clubs in the RFU.

Although completely club- orientated at Halifax, I was impressed by the willingness of the RFU to listen and act, and I resent the unfair press they are receiving from Steve Bale and Dave Hadfield plus others.

I have clear views on "open rugby" which I think represent those of a majority of administrators of the game at all levels.

The game requires an efficient overall controlling body to look at all aspects, and guide it wisely. The RFU is there, well set up, organised, equipped and would, if encouraged, do it well. Any substitute senior club orientated body, especially if led by non-rugby entrepreneurs would do it much worse, make immature and countless mistakes and bring division and chaos. So leave the RFU be.

Consistency throughout, would bring simplicity and understanding. Many of the proposed small variations in the Courage Championship are vague and illogical.

All monies from TV, sponsors etc, should be divided fairly as the Courage money is at present. It should be negotiated by the governing body - the RFU - and given to all clubs in fair proportion. If the lower clubs do not get a fair deal, there will be no success at the top clubs, who use the players developed by the lower ones. The unfairly vilified Cliff Brittle has emerged to me and many more as a champion of democracy and sense. Of course the successful should receive the best rewards, but the others must be regarded. Elitism is a cancer to be discouraged.

Yours,

DAI DAVIES

Todmorden, Lancashire

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