I`ve said a few times in these pages that football can learn a lot from rugby union. Total respect for referees and their assistants, sin bins, immediate on-field sanctions for dissent, after match citing, compulsory rest periods following concussion and so on. If football were to apply even half of those rules to itself then the game would undergo a transformation.
And yet there seems to be at least one area where rugby union lags behind and which has come to light with the sanctions dished out today to Mike Tindall. Now this is a player with 70 caps for England, a World Cup winner and a consistent performer both for Gloucester and for England over the years. In the recent World Cup tournament in New Zealand, however, Tindall was at the centre of a series of less than savoury incidents which brought the reputation and standing of the England team, both management and players, into disrepute. The players went on to do themselves no favours on the pitch and the management did no-one any favours by not taking the necessary disciplinary action immediately after the incidents took place.
What happened yesterday was that the Rugby Football Union finally decided on what action to take against Tindall, who was perceived as being the main protagonist in the offending incidents. The result was that Tindall`s contract as an England squad member has been immediately withdrawn and he has been fined £25,000 into the bargain, all of which would seem to bring an unfortunate end to what has been a distinguished England career.
Now football seems to have a fairly speedy process for dealing with disciplinary matters both on and off the field and until recently I imagined that rugby union had too. However, this business with Tindall has gone unresolved for weeks which is bad enough for all concerned. But what really makes it worse is the uncermonious way in which the sanctions have been applied.
Now I doubt anyone would have found the conduct of Tindall and a few of his team mates in any way acceptable and there`s no doubt that they deserved to have disciplinary action taken against them. Two of Tindall`s chums have received suspended fines of £5,000 each but Tindall`s fine and contract withdrawal seems almost dismissive, taking little account of the distinction of his career and the contribution he has made to English rugby.
No wonder he`s lodged an appeal. Strikes me that no-one is amused with this episode, including Tindall himself, certain members of the royal family and not forgetting the dwarfs, but those who should be least happy of all are the muddle headed Rugby Football Union who have spent far too long with a much too complicated process to produce their questionable verdict on something that should have been settled weeks ago in New Zealand. Wouldn`t happen at the Football Association, would it?