by Róisín Connick
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Respect in the rugby world has been a hot topic throughout all types of media this week.
I think it is truly justified to say I was utterly shocked at behaviour’s shown at last week’s internationals as the level of respect in rugby has been in decline for some time.
I found the respect and sense of community in rugby was one of the factors that drew me to the game. I loved how players respected officials, how fans celebrated their players whether they were winning or losing and how this created an even better environment for kids. As time goes on I am starting to rethink whether the level of respect is the same as it was all those years ago when I fell in love with the game.
Silence, the notorious silence, a hard thump and then a roar. The recognition of a kick. Respecting the kicker is something that is very important and Ireland is well known for the silence leading up to this moment and a moment we should ultimately be proud of. In last Saturday’s game against South Africa it was blatant that this tradition was not followed. Loud shouting and taunts could be heard when Jonathan Sexton was taking his kicks. It was obviously a select few who were taking part in this as you could hear a loud ‘Shhhh’ from a majority of fans. For me I think this silence is of the utmost importance and allows the kicker to focus. I applaud those fans who chose to ‘shhhh’ the minority as it shows that it is something that a large majority of fans still respect this traditional silence and are ensuring that this silence continues.
A wise man once said ‘If you can’t support us when we lose or draw, don’t support us when we win’ this is one quote that I live by and one that I think fans of all sports should abide by.
If you cannot be there for your team in times of darkness and loss you don’t deserve to be there when sun starts shining again. The people who will leave a game when their team is being defeated, bash their team and boo the players are the first to try revel in their success. Real fans are there week in, week out supporting their players no matter the circumstance. It is respect; it is showing your team that you support them. To me there is nothing worse than a half empty stadium with 10-20 minutes left in a game. There was an example of this last weekend when Rhys Preistland was booed as he made his way to the pitch during Wales v Australia. Players should not face the daunting aspect of booing fans and each time they grace the field. They deserve nothing more that our utmost support and respect.
Back in early 2014 I attended the Ireland v Scotland game in the Six Nations. Unfortunately my experience in the Aviva was not a good one that day. My dad and I spent 80 minutes full of frustration; it was not because of the rugby itself but because of a handful of fans. I spent a lot of time that day getting up and down and moving because of the people going to the bar. I missed key parts of the game, I’m not saying that alcohol is bad at games but if people are drinking at that level why come to the game to stand at the bar?. It’s disrespectful to the fans that have travelled to the game, who are constantly interrupted and their day ruined. It is also disrespectful to the fans that would love to go to a game but cannot because it was sold out and you have spent about 85% of the game out of your seat. It also leads to a few people getting quiet rude using horrible language that only a sailor would be proud of. We have a strong following of young people here in Ireland young boys and girls who love the game and play the game themselves and people are using seriously bad language in front of them? What kind of an example is that for these young kids? I believe there is no place for blatant bad language in our stadia. Those kids are the future of rugby, if we cannot show them respect and good behaviour in our time well then I fear for rugby when it is their time.
I am going to touch bass on the incident in relation to Nigel Owens. It truly bothers me when people are judged and abused because of their sexual orientation it is disgraceful and unjust. No human being should be subjected to any form of abuse or bullying and it certainly does not belong in the game of rugby. When I read the letter in regards to the behaviour of a select few fans at the England v New Zealand I honestly see red, I could not comprehend how people thought that it was ok to speak so horribly about another human being and think that it is ok. Nigel is one of the most respected men in the rugby family, has the support of the masses and comes across as an honest and genuine person. No one deserves to be treated in that manner. We all need to stand up and make sure this type of behaviour is eradicated.
We are a group, we are a community but most of all we are a family. Once you disrespect one of us, you disrespect all of us. It is up to us as an team to ensure that our teams who put their bodies on the line each are supported, that our officials who give us their time are respected and that us the fans maintain a high level of respect to those people who brought this family together. If each one of us stood up and took the time to make sure this code of conduct is upheld then our precious game and all that we stand for is safe, if not the game and love for attending games will suffer and the blame will lie in our own hands.