Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Rugby's Gogglegate & the quest for a clearer picture


Great news for ex-Leinster man Ian McKinley as IRFU apply to goggles trial > http://ow.ly/W4MtP
Posted by Harpin' on Rugby on Friday, 18 December 2015


ian mckinley

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Rugby fans and commentators alike are often accused of viewing the game through metaphorical goggles tinted with their own team’s colours, but in recent times the topic of actual goggles has come to the fore, and it is one that has caused a great deal of debate and confusion.

What I want is be able to look at the matter objectively before formulating an opinion myself, but I have neither the time nor the resources to conduct the kind of in-depth research required to do so.

I do have, however,  a laptop and a website, so what I have chosen to do is come up with a series of headings in areas I feel are relevant, do some basic googling and copy/pasting, and try to produce something close to a “one stop shop” for information.   Then as I learn more on the topic, be it off my own bat or with your help, I can update the page as required.  A wiki page of sorts, if you will.

Note - my personal offerings for this post are presented in this “Arial” font - material taken from other sources will be in “Times New Roman”.

Here goes...


Taken from the World Rugby site under the heading : World Rugby Goggles Global Law Trial

In an effort to allow people who need to wear corrective lenses to do so safely while playing Rugby and to accommodate people with monocular vision or chronic eye conditions who wish to wear goggles while playing Rugby, World Rugby has developed specific goggles – “Rugby Goggles”. Rugby Goggles have been developed with a view to posing no additional risk to the wearer and other players.


Just last week the governing body for rugby in Ireland clarified their position with the release of this Q&A which included the following...

Why has the IRFU decided not to participate in the trial?

To establish if the IRFU should allow players to use eyewear/goggles the Medical Committee of the IRFU sought independent medical advice from one of Ireland's leading ophthalmic surgeons.

Based on this advice it was decided that Ireland would not participate in the trial, as to do so would potentially jeopardise the health and safety of those playing our game. Therefore, the wearing of eyewear on the field of play continues to be prohibited.


The passage below is taken from the Raleri website, which is in Italian so the text has been sent through Google Translate.  I decided not to “clean up” the translation to keep things objective.


TAKE PART TO CHANGE! Until now the use of glasses or masks was formally banned in rugby contact.

In order to allow people who need to use corrective lenses while playing Rugby and satisfy those who are in conditions of reduced field of vision or monocular and want to wear a screen while playing, the World Federation of Rugby (IRB) mandated to Raleri develop specific "Glasses Rugby" that are now the subject of a comprehensive test (GLT) on the fields around the world.

Players who wish to buy a pair of glasses IRB approved to participate in the program GLT must register to obtain a unique code to purchase on the website of the IRB .


Only the Raleri goggles are involved in the World Rugby trial programme. 

So what I’d like to know is...has any other company expressed an interest in supplying them to the game?  Not easy to find information about this online. 

When I googled “rugby goggle manufacturers” I found things like this on Alibaba.com from a company based in China - they say they’re “Rugby football Myopia safety goggles” though of course their use wouldn’t be permitted in a WR-sanctioned game.  Obviously that’s a dead end...I just wanted to show how little there is out there. 

In the interest of objectivity I’d be interested to know if any other company tendered for this trial - if I find out anything I will of course update this section.


What makes this situation worthy of the “-gate” tag is that because a few unions are not participating in the trial, it means that several are being denied from playing rugby for a reason they know wouldn’t matter in a different jurisdiction.

Clearly the most high profile case is that of former St Mary’s and Leinster out half Ian McKinley, seen in the main picture.

The following is taken from the “Let Ian McKinley play on Irish soil” petition page...

Ian himself played a central role in developing the pioneering goggles, after losing the sight in his left eye during a rugby match in 2010.  At the time, he was playing professional rugby with Leinster, and had 11 caps for Ireland at under-19 and under-20 age-levels.  He lost his eye when a team-mate accidentally put his stud in it during a ruck, causing a full rupture.  He was determined to stay playing despite his injury, and continued with Leinster for a further 18 months.  However, during that time, his good eye was deliberately gouged during two All-Ireland League matches.  Ian realised he could be left blind if he continued to play without protective eyewear.  So he made the excruciating decision to quit the game he loved at the age of 21.

He subsequently worked with designers at NCAD (National College of Art & Design) to find a solution that would enable him to continue playing rugby.  The protective goggles that were developed as a result are now being manufactured by Italian firm Raleri and used by 525 players worldwide.

Recently Ian’s mother Pam McKinley published the following letter in the Irish Times :

Your rugby correspondents have recently highlighted the unresolved plight of Ian McKinley, who is my son.

Ian has shown extraordinary courage and resolve in re-building his professional rugby career in Italy, following losing his sight in one eye while a Leinster player, due to an injury accidentally sustained in a match five years ago.

To watch a son, not only now having partial vision, but also to have his dream so cruelly taken away from him is a mother’s worst nightmare. Ian’s lifeline back in to the game came because he is permitted to play in Italy with World Rugby’s trial goggles, which protect his remaining eye.

Twenty three other rugby unions worldwide have signed up to this trial, but the IRFU did not.

Ian has now successfully played nearly 40 professional matches over this and last season, including playing for the Barbarians last March in Scotland.

In October, he played for Zebre as a permit player in Italy against the Scarlets in the Guinness Pro 12. But a fortnight later, the IRFU refused him permission to play here against Connacht with Zebre, a rigid refusal that continues to this day.

In marked contrast, the Scottish RU makes the rugby goggles the centre-piece of their union’s inclusion policy.

How is it one Home union is able to celebrate the goggles, while another (the IRFU) outlaws them?

I consider the IRFU’s continuing treatment of Ian to be heartless and shocking, by persistently refusing him permission to play here professionally. Ian is an Irish citizen and a product of the academy system here.

The IRFU should be proudly affirming his heroic comeback achievements as a rugby good-news story, not blocking them, thereby impeding his professional rugby development.

Ian has done nothing wrong, yet it seems he is being penalised for his courage, as he battles the endless obstacles that are placed before him by rugby’s bureaucracy here.

As Ian’s mother, I now pose the following question to the IRFU: “If Ian was your own son, and had come through all he has, how would you feel if he was being treated in this way?”

For latest updates on the #LetIanPlay campaign, there are accounts on both Twitter and Facebook.

Naturally, Ian McKinley isn’t the only rugby player affected by this situation, and in many cases it’s school children who are being prevented from playing, like Ryan Totten of Coleraine  and Sean Moore and Eoin Worrell of Portarlington


In the IRFU questionnaire they point out that both the English RFU and the French FFR have also opted out of the trial.  This is true for senior rugby, but the English have allowed them to be worn by Under-13 players.  Here is an excerpt from a statement on the RFU site :

In the 2013-14 season, the RFU introduced a trial in England that would enable the wearing of certain sport goggles by players playing contact rugby at the Under 13 age grade and below if certain conditions were satisfied. This trial was a variation of the RFU’s current regulations which prohibits all types of goggles to be worn in contact rugby. The trial continued for the 2014-15 season and was further extended to permit U14s and above to wear sports goggles in exceptional circumstances if certain additional conditions are satisfied. The trial will continue for the 2015-2016 season and player shall be entitled to participate in the trial if the below conditions are satisfied.

I did a little extra digging here...the goggles for U13s can only be ones that have been approved by the Association for British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) so I went to their site to see what they had to say:

It should be noted that ABDO was extremely uncomfortable with the proposed goggle in that there were several concerns. Primarily this centred on the parameters of the frame which we deemed unsatisfactory for young children.

The RFU have now decided to conduct a national trial having taken on board the comments we have made. Consequently there is now provision for goggles to be worn for u13s.


Here’s where you come in. Should the goggles be allowed here in Ireland or are the IRFU right to go with the advice they have been given?

Let me know what you think by means of a comment here on the site, or back at the social media post that brought you here, or indeed email me at paganoblog@gmail.com.  I will add as many as I can to this section as time goes on. 

Also if you have any relevant info to add to the above headings (or even if you have a whole new one I haven’t thought of) by all means pass it on.

Hopefully the matter will eventually be resolved in a way that suits everyone.  JLP


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019