Season's structure in question


THE IRFU committee will meet today in special session to consider the structure of the season. It is a crucial issue and the union will have before it several proposals including the comprehensive suggestions from the Leinster Branch,

The suspension imposed on Ireland prop Peter Clohessy, for the incident during the FranceIreland match, will also be discussed. Following his 26 playing weeks ban, by the match commissioner Alan Hosie, any further action taken by the IRFU is likely to centre on his playing contract. The incident itself has been dealt with by the commissioner after the player was cited by the IRFU and French federation.

Yesterday, on the eve of the meeting, the president on the IRFU, Dr Syd Millar, had some telling points to make on the structure of the season. He also expressed some forthright views on the activity that has gone on in England in particular and, to a lesser extent, Wales with regard to European competition next season. He also handed out a warning to Irish clubs not to be led down the path being charted by top English clubs, whose attitude he described as being "selective, motivated by self interest and totally selfish".

"It is extremely disturbing to see what is happening in England where some of the top clubs seem to want to take over the running of the game to suit their own ends. The Welsh also seem to be having their problems in that respect. The English and Welsh unions must come to terms with the problem. I am not adopting a told you so attitude, but the kind of activity that is now going on was exactly what we said would happen after the game went open.

"As far as the IRFU is concerned,, the game is not about a minority of top clubs, it about all the clubs in this country. It is our duty and responsibility to look after them as best we can. The motivation behind the suggested European competitions, involving 52 clubs, has nothing to offer Ireland. The European Cup has been very successful this season and is most suitable for Ireland and the good of Irish rugby with our provinces competing. Those who run that competition have a mandate to do so from their rugby unions. The game is not about providing money and power to a few top clubs who want to get the money and have the power at the cost of the rest. The logical outcome of their proposals would in my view be disastrous for the game generally.

Irish clubs do not have millionaire backers, nor is it realistic for our clubs to enter European competition. What is suggested is suitable for a small minority in England. It seems as if there is a view that money will not only buy players but power. I wonder how long that will last and what happens when money does not buy success for them. I would hate to see Irish clubs being used to make up the numbers. It is quite clear, too, that those at the centre of recent events do not know anything about the game in this country and I have absolutely no doubt neither do they care.

"Players are going to English clubs from all over the world, what good is that to the England national team and the game in England. We are losing players to English clubs, too, because the money is not in the game here to compete. That kind of money cannot be generated here nor would attendances here, in the vast majority of instances on the club front, warrant vast expenditure by clubs. We do not have the money or the population. When you compare our provinces with the top English clubs you compare like with like. We must do everything we reasonably can to try and keep our players in Ireland. There is very understandable anxiety here on that issue. As I said, it is all about power and money being vested in the very few at the cost of the many. How anyone can see that as good for the game is beyond me."

Millar said that while the structure that is now in place in Ireland, with regard to the various national teams from schools level through to the senior side is good. "We are very conscious that we must look at what is the best system to help our clubs - all of our clubs. That is a crucial issue and we are well aware of it. Amendment to the structure of the season is needed and we are exploring every possible way of doing what is best to help them. That will be the fundamental part of the discussions we will have at the meeting and we will also call a further meeting of the clubs."

. Will Carling's England squad are now `part-time employees' of the Rugby Football Union (RFU).

The players accepted this status when they signed professional sportsman's contracts yesterday, which gives them a substantial income and changes their lifestyles.