Thursday, November 13, 2014

Is respect in rugby dying?

by Kristian Ross


Picture the scene...it’s a November day at Twickenham. The Autumn Internationals are back. New Zealand are in town. England have a huge opportunity against an All Blacks side widely regarded as the best the world has ever seen. It’s a tight game. It’s a close score line. NZ come out victorious.

But in the aftermath of all this, one story more than any other made the headlines. Nigel Owens, openly gay, the greatest referee I have ever seen in my time as a fan, subjected to homophobic abuse by certain members of the crowd.

Meanwhile, over in Cardiff, Wales have taken to the pitch against Australia. Gatland’s record against southern hemisphere teams looking ominous. Rhys Priestland comes on. The Scarlets man. Welsh to the core. Through and through. He is booed by his own fans.

As the afternoon turns into evening, Jonny Sexton lines up yet another kick as Ireland get closer to beating the Springboks at the Aviva. The normally respectful silence for the kicker completely ignored as Sexton goes for the sticks, loud jeering can be heard. It’s an afternoon for rugby to forget…

It’s been a dark week for rugby union. Don't deny it. Come to terms with it. The respect that is a massive part of our game, the ethos that is drilled into every youngster, totally and utterly ignored a minority at three international rugby stadiums on Saturday. The moronic chanting from some of the Twickenham crowd was nothing less than an absolute disgrace.

Owens, a man who commands so much respect on a rugby pitch, degraded by a bunch of idiots who should in my opinion (and like Brian Moore tweeted this morning) should receive lifetime bans. In our career, our lives, we are who we are. I’m incredibly proud to say that I have gay friends, but in a world where narrow-mindedness is still ever present, it’s sad to say that some are still living in the dark ages. Nigel is a wonderful man, that deserves the praise and applause of every single fan out there. Nobody deserves that kind of humiliation. Fortunately, Nigel came out this week and bravely spoke up about what happened on Saturday. Something that we should all take note of. A stand out individual and role model.

His fellow countryman Rhys Priestland faired no better this weekend. A man who may have not had the greatest performances, but to be booed by a home crowd at the Millennium Stadium?  A sheer an utter shambles. May I remind everyone that the opposite of cheering is silence. How can these people call themselves rugby fans, when they do the exact opposite of what being a rugby fan means?

Irish Rugby on the other hand, notoriously famous for respecting the kicker when a number ten steps up to deliver. Across the four provinces, you will also hear nothing more than a pin drop at Thomond, The Sportsground, Ravenhill or the RDS. Saturday seemed like no other international at Landsdowne Road until a small group of fans decided to jeer when both kickers were attempting to nail a penalty or a conversion. It’s incredible.

Is this a new breed of rugby fan with no respect for the traditions for the game? Where are we now? Is respect in rugby dying?

No, surely it can’t be, the fans out there who are nothing short of exemplary at every game, the true fans, still outweigh these fools massively. But this has to end. And end soon…

Kristian. 20. Geordie. Fond of Wasps, Falcons and Ulster. @Kristian7Ross

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