Tag Archives: Rugby

That time of the year

When all the 6 week rugby fans appear.

Yes they do annoy me. But the ones who annoy me the most are the ones who say “we love rugby but we have no region to support so we support Wales”. The second bit is so much rubbish!!  I can understand the ones who only support their national team as that will be the case in any sport.  There will always and should be a bit of extra interest in the national team . Also who doesn’t watch odd sports during the Olympics just because their country is doing well.

Let me tell you a story

I grew up in north Sweden in a football loving family but since 2006 I live in Swansea. I grew up playing football myself, watching my brother play, hanging around the teams my dad coached.  I watched the local top team, division 3 at the time, and the senior men’s team in my club.  But I still had a favourite team in the Swedish top division because I enjoyed watching their style of football. I was 14 the first time I quickly passed through that town (which is 1 1/2 hours away by plane) on my way to play a football cup in Denmark. On top of that I had a favourite team in the English top league and still have, Liverpool FC. I was 41 the first and so far only time I have made it to Anfield.  I wish I could go more but every Saturday morning I coach my son’s U10s team and every Sunday morning I coach my daughter’s u14s team so it’s a bit tricky.   I have been to the odd Swans game as I love football but I only have so much time (and money)

When we moved to Wales and Swansea both my husband and I started to follow rugby. We started with Wales as the 6Nations are easily accessible. However as the love for the sport grew we wanted more.  We started to go and watch the region our area belonged to which was Ospreys. At the start we knew some of the players from Wales but some we had no idea who they were. I chatted to Justin Marshall and his wife at the school quite a few times before someone told me who they were. In the beginning, we used to bring a blanket for our youngest so he could go to sleep during the evening games.  However, quite quickly when we started to follow the Ospreys by being season ticket holders we got to know  who all the players were. We enjoy watching the young players coming through as well as watching the established players.  We enjoy it because we love the game of rugby and  by following the region we can  follow and support rugby on a day to day basis.

We also follow Wales, go to the odd game as they are too expensive and because of Roger Lewis I decided not pay for a ticket during last few years (managed to win 5 free tickets over the years).  But just watching Wales is very much a part time affair and if you like us love rugby it’s not enough.  From my background you should realise that I have much respect for grassroots and I do understand to a certain extent people who only watch their local club. I say to a certain extent because after all, for me, if you love the game I think there naturally is an interest to watch it played at a higher level. A season ticket with Ospreys is VERY affordable so price can’t be an issue compared to watch Wales.

Now to the important bit, we do this without being born in Wales. Our families are not from here, we are not in any way connected with the region before we moved here because of my husband’s job.  Some people are born into supporting a club/region but it is NOT a prerequisite!!! It can be a choice. If you decide that you don’t want to follow a region it’s your choice, it doesn’t have anything to do with “there  being no region for you”.

I don’t know how many Swans supporters who I have spoken to who has a second team in Premier League as they grew up when Swans played in a lower league and then chose a Premier League team to support. I have a favourite team in the Top 14 etc..

The regions will not succeed without the grassroots and Wales will not succeed without the regions. So if you are professing your love for rugby and say you support Wales but there is no region to  support you are not really a supporter of the Welsh National team either.  (And yes I do watch my local rugby team every now and then.)


Wales and rugby

The EGM has yet to take place but unfortunately I don’t think much will change. The clubs are intimidated by the WRU and some have  been promised things that are yet to happen so few are prepared to rock the boat. This is unfortunate as if they all the clubs talked to each other and rocked the boat it would surely capsize and we would hopefully start again with something better, well could it be worse…

For me twitter has been of interest over the last  few months when these issues have been more in the spotlight. Personally I took the decision 2-3 years ago not to hand over any of my money to the WRU. Two main reasons for this

1. The 4th Autumn International.  Do I need to say more? Gatland says he needs the players at least 2 weeks before a match to prepare. The WRU and Gatland wants a 4th AI that gives the regions less than a week to prepare for the European Cup.  Then Gatland criticises the regions for not performing in Europe…..

2. An interview  with Roger Lewis a few years back saying that Team Wales is the future of Welsh Rugby. No Roger, grassroots are the future of Welsh rugby as that is where your players will come from. As a grassroots coach I would feel betrayed by the WRU. Volunteers in all sports  (I coach football) spend many hours a week, sometimes in horrible conditions as there is no optional roof on our pitches,  making it possible for Wales to field a team not just this year but in years to come. But sorry grassroots rugby coaches what you do is not part of the future.

However, there is one thing  that some clubs have taken as a reason/excuse to stay faithful with the WRU and blame the regions for all ill.. that confuses me…

Compensation for players that they have developed and in their eyes,  the regions steal from them!?

So if I get it right, there are a number of clubs out there who think that they can have a professional rugby team in their town, village? They think they can find the sponsors build a stadium say  Parc Y Scarlets size..keep a business of that size going?

Also this said compensation that they want, I have been wondering where it will come from and the only solution I can see is that they want a transfer system like in football.  During two transfer windows any player can be bought regardless of contract as long as you pay enough money for him. This is the difference, in football the clubs/regions are paid for a player as long he’s under contract and from this payment compensation to the players’ previous clubs is paid is some cases. At the moment most professional rugby players will see through their contract and then sign a new contract which might be with another club. If so their previous club/region is not paid as the player is not bought as in football. There have been a few early release compensations paid, eg George North but they are few and far between.  So my conclusion can only be that they want rugby to be more like football as they would then be able to receive compensation…Because as we all know money doesn’t grow on trees and any form of compensation costs.

I have written a blog before where I talked about  the relationship between clubs and regions, Regional Rugby – Thoughts, so just a recap now. For me a local club would aim to have minis, juniors and a senior team. Some local clubs might be able to field teams in all age groups some not, but the aim is there. I can’t see that it should be the aim for every local club to have their own professional team, that just doesn’t work, anyone disagree?  This means that the professional tier will cover more than one local club while at the same time being the local clubs’ top tier. It is theirs, so when a player goes on to play professionally, maybe starts in the academy, they have reached the local clubs top tier!

Unless of course the local club rather keep the player, as they get no compensation, not encouraging him to reach his full potential as a rugby player which for some could be playing for Wales….






Parent and coach

Last week a dilemma came up. I was asked if I would be willing to help out as an assistant coach with an U10 boys team next year. My son is the same age but plays for another club so that would mean moving him as well. He is a very decent football player so most local clubs would be very happy to have him.  With three children and one car we have to be at the same place on a Saturday morning though.  What to do?

As I have an UEFA B-licence I have invested a lot of my time to become a coach, I have done this as I really enjoy it.  I was helping out somewhat with my son’s current team but they were not really interested in my input as a coach, I was just another adult at the training sessions as the group is very big.   The way they decided to do things was not the way I would have done at all so I decided to leave as more parents had come forward to help anyway. Now there is another team interested in what I can offer.  (Both teams have coaches with leader’s awards but there are no C-certificates or B-licence coaches involved.)

I have decided to let my son do a few training sessions with the new team (he knows a few players there from rugby) and then let him decide what he wants to do, at the moment he wants  to stay with his old team. I do find it frustrating standing on the sideline not being able to say anything when I see things in training or in a match that could easily be coached and improved upon. I am a good parent though and keep quiet 🙂  However, maybe it’s good for my son to be coached by someone else (I already coach him once  a week in an independent academy). I also coach three teams already so better for me as well?   

There is also the issue that one team has a working club organisation behind it (his current team) while the other has a few teams but only in a few age groups.

Oh well, enjoyment for the little one is the main thing really so I will leave it to him. He will be playing rugby this weekend even though I have been told that there will be scouts at his football game from Swansea City. At the moment he wants to be a rugby player and in his blue scrum cap and number 7 on his back he’s doing really well. His favourite player is Justin Tipuric whom he tries to learn from and I am happy with that! 


Football, rugby and referees

(Wrote this a few years ago but now organising stuff so I have it in one place)

When I was a little girl and started to go and watch football with my dad there was one thing he taught me from the very beginning. The referee is always right! My dad was a very good football player in his day. I never saw him play at his best but have been told that had the game been professional in Sweden at the time he would have been playing proffesionally. He had played games at all levels from local village games up to playing for North Sweden v North Norway and North Finland. For him it was a matter of course to respect the referee and as part of the game itself adher to the fact that the referee is always right. When I started playing myself this was deeply ingrained into me. I was captain of my team for most of 15 years and throughout my playing days the referee was always right. I didn’t necessarily agree with him/her all the time but I kept that to myself.

Therefore, I find it very hard to accept the way football is now treating their referees. I am saying football because even though it is the players that mainly hands out the abuse there are few laws that the referee can use to help him and in the end that is down to FIFA. The lack of respect from managers and players for the referees has led to football supporters behaving even worse at times. Anders Frisk a former Swedish referee felt that enough was enough after he and his young family received death threats from Chelsea fans after a Champions League match(http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/article432383.ece ). We have seen Alex Ferguson recieve a 5 match ban for his behaviour. For me it’s clear that bad behaviour on the pitch or by the managers gives a clear signal to the fans that that type of behaviour is accepted and even asked for.

What’s worse, football doesn’t seem to do much about it. We seldom see any repercussions after atrocious behaviour on and off the pitch. What makes it even harder is that a sport that pretty much grew up next door has working laws in place but football has so far refused to even contemplate changes in that direction. I am of course talking about rugby union. I watch a lot of rugby and appreciate that the referee is so much better respected by the players and coaches. When I watch football it quite often makes me sad and disillusioned because of the way the players behave and their lack of respect for the referee. Especially as this is something that spreads and we now have a huge problem with abusive parents and young children behaving badly in youth football. One weekend there were three fights between parents, one fight between the children playing in my local area and that’s only the ones I know of.

There are some rugby laws that can be brought in directly to football and would increase respect for match officials and make football more enjoyable. There are three laws I would bring in to football to directly help the standing of the referee when on the pitch which are easy to implement. They are tools for the referee to control the behaviour of the players and have a direct impact on the player and the team.

•Penalty can be moved 10 metres forward (in football it would be the freekick)
•Sin bin
•Reversed penalties/freekicks
The first law would enable the referee to move a freekick forward as a direct consequence of
players questioning his decision or swearing at him for the decision made. The referee just says 10 metres and that’s it. The player has been given a clear warning that he is out of line and if he continues more severe sanctions will be implemented.

I think the yellow cards in today’s football are pretty useless. For example, van der Sar was given a yellow card against Liverpool at Anfield and what implications did it have, none! There was no incitament for him not to shout at the referee as he knew that a yellow card would be the only consequence. If he knew that he could be sent off for 10 minutes, would he have done the same? The introduction of a sin bin would increase the referee’s possibilities to directly deal with any dissent or foul play by the players, being a more severe outcome for the player and his team. In rugby, if you committ a yellow card offense you are sent off for 10 minutes. It is a direct punishment and has an impact there and then on the player and the game. The accumulation of cards in tournaments would become a non issue as the disciplinary action has already been meted.

Reversed penalties/freekicks is another but slightly different tool for the match officials. This law makes it possible to reverse an already given penalty/freekick and give it to the opposition. This option is mainly used if a player retaliates. The scenario could be that one player is brought down and is given a free kick. If he or any of his team mates then goes up to the offending player and pushes them, kicks them etc the referee can choose to reverse the penalty. I saw a very clear incident in a recent Magners League game. One player committed a yellow card offence and both penalty and a yellow card were given. However, the victim of the offence lost his temper and
threw the ball in the head/back of the offender. The reslut was that the yellow card stood and that player was sent off but the penalty was reversed. This law can also be used for dissent to match officials and if the assistant referee has seen something the referee didn’t pick up.

The main point of these three changes is that they stand for a direct punishment of unacceptable behaviour on the pitch, whether it is a bad tackle or disrespect against the referee.

In order to improve the game from a more general perspective I want to bring in citing. In rugby, if the match officials miss an incident and it is caught on camera the player can be banned after the game. I think that this something that should be used in football as well. The main use I see for it is blatant diving in the penalty box and when players pretend injuries (some exapmles at the start http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TT0dgAa7D8o ), that is; unsportsmanlike behaviour. The main point being that it doesn’t matter if the referee saw the incident during the game, you can still be caught and punished for it.

Furthermore, I want to allow physios/doctors in on the pitch if someone is injured while play
continues. In football, we see players taking a dive, rolling around, pretending the injury is bad, ballthen being kicked out etc. Suddenly the player makes a miraculous recovery and seems to be fine.
In rugby, play continues while treatment is done on the pitch (there are a few exceptions like serious neck and head injuries). This means that the players don’t gain anything from pretending that an injury is worse than it was, in fact the team lose out as they have to play with one man less while treatment takes place. This would discourage football players to pretend that their injuries are worse than they are and the match would not be brought to stand still.

The last thing I would like to mention is goal line technology. Yes I want it! In rugby we are used to the TMO sign. We wait until the TMO has checked if a try was scored or not. This happens nearly every game, sometimes many times in one game. Not a big issue. To be fair in rugby it is usually a bit trickier to actually see whether a try has been scored compared to football where the ball some 99% of the time is either in the net or not. However, the main reason I want it for goals, unfortunately has to do with the referee. It hasn’t got anything to do with the flow of the game, being equal wherever or on whatever level you play football, or any of the other reason that FIFA seem to conjure. As mentioned above, there are referees that receive death threats for doing something that is vital for a football match to be played. We can play a game with less than 22 players on the pitch but not without a referee but who wants to be a referee now-a-days?. For the safety of the referees I want goal line technology. The use of technology works in many sports eg rugby, tennis, cricket, American football so I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work in football.

As a youth coach I am worried about the behaviour on the sidelines and by some players and I therefore think it is of utmost importance to deal with these issues. I think that the changes I have proposed are all easy to implement and stands for a direct consequence for any type of foul play. They would all help the referees and improve the game of football. It is my belief that a better environment on the pitch with respect for match officials will in the long run have an impact on the people watching the game. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to have empty sections when football is played to separate home and away fans.