Ten days in the life of a go-between
Sunday 14 May 1995
WEDNESDAY, 3 MAY: I take a call from rugby correspondent of the Sun, who says that Will has been quoted describing the RFU as "57 old farts". I had seen a preview of the TV programme in question but can't recall him saying that and, in any case, I feel that it's hardly a very offensive thing to say. I call Will to tell him, but he can't recall saying it either.
THURSDAY: In today's Sun, there's a quote from the wife of Colin Herridge, a member of the RFU committee. Colin's wife says that his daughters call him an old fart all the time. In the evening, I watch the programme at home. As the credits roll, there is the quote. It dawned on me that there were two possibilities: either not all the voice-overs had been added to the preview I saw, or I had missed the very end. FRIDAY: I play golf with Will, Gary Lineker and Jim Foley, a colleague of Will's at Insights. After nine holes, we stop for a sausage sandwich, and my mobile phone rings. It's a member of the RFU committee, who says that there is talk of a "hanging party", and can we get a faxed apology down to the East India Club as soon as possible? I pass the phone over to Will, who says he had no intention of being offensive, and that he couldn't recall making the remark. We arrange to have apologies sent to the East India Club. Lineker says to Will: "They can't sack you for that. It'd be pathetic." I take more calls from RFU people. Things are getting out of hand.
SATURDAY: I phone Will and we discuss the apology. Later, I'm in the shower when my wife shouts that I'd better come out because Will's on the phone, saying he's been sacked. My wife had asked him: "Is that unemployed of Putney?" I pick up the phone. Will is stunned. I speak to several members of the RFU committee, who urge me not to leak the story in case they change their minds. Calls come in from journalists. I say nothing. It is soon obvious that the RFU are not getting much support. I call Will and tell him to keep schtum. I've been through similar things before, with Lineker and David Gower; I know how this will develop. But I don't sleep well.
SUNDAY: I call Rob Andrew first thing. I ask him to speak to everyone in the team. We then leave for a family picnic. The mobile goes and it's Gary Newbon from Talk Radio. Can Will come on the programme? No way. Can I? I agree to talk to him later. The picnic is constantly interrupted by calls. On the way back, Newbon's assistant rings. We pull into a lay- by and I chat for 10 minutes with Gary. Then he says: "I've got Dennis Easby - do you want to hang on?" You bet. Easby is under a number of misapprehensions, and we have a bit of a verbal punch-up. Easby says that there seems to be a divergence on the facts, and within a few minutes has agreed to meet Will. I call Will to tell him. He can hardly believe it. I call Rob Andrew and advise him that the players should issue a mild statement. With a show of unity, it can all be cleared up. I arrange for Talk Radio to get a tape of the show to Will. Later I speak to him. ITN are banging on his door. I say: keep it short. I sleep a little better.
MONDAY: Will is to meet Easby, but I feel I should not be there. I call Colin Herridge's mobile. He says: "I'm in the car. With the President and Will." I say: "Everybody happy?" There is laughter from the back seat. At six, the BBC announce that Will has been reinstated.
TUESDAY: I drive to a golf tournament when Ian Wooldridge from the Mail calls, asking for my side of the story. At the tournament, people congratulate me.
WEDNESDAY: Wooldridge's piece appears. It is all rather embarrassing. Later, a client of mine jokes that I'm trying to destabilise the establishment. I incline to the cock-up theory.
THURSDAY: I attend the RFU awards dinner. I meet Dennis Easby - an old- fashioned gentleman, very pleasant. He's from a different time from me, but I quite like him. Bill Bishop, next year's RFU president, suggests we have lunch.
FRIDAY: I meet Will for breakfast. It's the first time we have met since the storm blew up: we have a laugh about it all. I take the train to Manchester to meet Michael Atherton.
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