Gallant Gallic hosts leave a lot to be desired
When Christine Connolly addressed the crowd at Stade de France to confirm the bad news they had already heard from Ireland via text was perfectly true, her discomfort suggested the organisers had just pulled their pointy sticks out off camera, before prodding her to a reluctant, chilly apology.
Yes, it was frozen. Yes, it was dangerous. Yes, it was cancelled. All that was missing was a hapless French shrug.
That the communications manager of the Six Nations, one of the very few women in this manly, oval world, was anointed for the job seemed in itself a cowardly piece of decision making on a night where officials once again stretched fan loyalty beyond decency.
An initial observation, was how decision makers in the game stood up straight around the pitch as fans booed and jeered Mrs Connolly, when there wasn’t a vertebra in the house.
Not for the first time gender was used to pacify a simmering crowd, which had every right to feel that some sort of treachery was afoot. That their tickets would be respected for the return fixture was, regardless of the legal terms and agreements, a sensational sleight and misjudgement of the mood which was bubbling beyond outrage.
Now that the 80,000 fans are not in a position to break up the stadium in St Denis, the Six Nations have decided that there are “very significant logistical issues arising from this situation,” and they would wish to be in a position to give a comprehensive clarification following a meeting on Tuesday.
What is clear is that everyone who bought a ticket has the cash to get back to Paris, right?
In a world where the line between sport, business and entertainment is constantly blurred, the indifference to the Irish and French fans literally freezing cold in Paris was an interesting study of nonchalant disregard.
It was like the waiter standing beside the table in one of those wonderful French bistros shaking his head and unmoved saying ‘non, non, non’ when all you ask for is your entrecote to be well done. Well, maybe there is a cultural point to be made there but belittling detachment from the customer can be trying with two children and 80,000 people wondering when the next train will arrive.
For the uninitiated there are no bars and bistros around Stade de France. People cannot just filter away down cobbled side streets and hunker down in a bar to wait it out.
Thousands of euro that went into flights, hotels, food, drink will never be recovered because of indecision and lack of foresight and not once could the fans have come into the thinking. The IRFU recently found out to their cost with ticketing prices that the depth of the rugby pocket is in fact finite and when stakeholders of the game are treated with disdain there is a reaction.
The IRFU will say nothing because these events are political and, well, it’s the French covered in merde. But they should because these fans are their support base. They deserve duty of care.
As it stands the FFR president, Pierre Camou, pointed the finger at referee Dave Pearson. Pearson pointed the finger at the concrete pitch. French television pointed the finger at the Six Nations and the FFR. The FFR pointed the finger at God. The fans pointed their fingers at officials who felt obliged to build a stadium with no underground heating and Declan Kidney, as tradition has shown on a variety of topics, pointed his finger at nobody.
Finally they pushed out poor Christine at whom everyone pointed a finger.
Gallant to the last.