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Deja vu 1895?
RLI wrote to all rugby union clubs and its current RLI member clubs asking them to apply to join an exciting new summer conference along the same lines of the highly successful Rugby League Conference (RLC). The invite explained the commercial, social and playing reasons for clubs to consider joining and most important of all the symbiotic relationship that can exist between the two sports.
The RLI also met with the CEO of the IRFU to explain this. The RLI were given the impression that for all the IRFU would not support the venture it also would not stand in its way.
To the RLI's surprise the IRFU CEO wrote to all its clubs telling them in broad terms not to involve themselves with Rugby League. They justified this with the following points:
- RLI is affiliated to a British Organisation (BARLA). This is obviously a mistake as the RLI is a stand along body, but does use Barla's buying power for insurance only!
- RLI's insurance is inadequate. This is also untrue and is highly inflammatory given sports general paranoia to the insurance issue. The insurance cover is the same for RLI players as it is for Barla, RLC and other amateur players. Clubs can even upgrade this if they so wish to a better level of cover than the IRFU's equivalent for a lesser price.
- IRFU players should be allowed a full off season. Surely this is the player?s choice. The club may even attract new players or players from rival clubs etc.
The net result is that the IRFU have planted seeds of doubt in the minds of clubs which the RLI is working hard to reassure. This will make things significantly more difficult.
The flip side is that the IRFU have blown a mountain out of a mole hill and it is likely that this will become a very big issue. Broadsheet coverage in Ireland has already started.
The establishment of a RLC competition in Ireland is inevitable and it is hoped that the growing awareness of league will help this along.
With up coming St. Pats fixture Ireland v USA in the USA, Brian Carney's rising profile, the ST. Pats 1895 dinner, Ireland being included in the 2008 world cup and the biggest coup of all Brian O'Driscoll's (the IRFU crown jewel) potentially joining Rugby League things have never looked so good.
There are a bunch of attachments that are worth reading to fill you in on more detail.
The irony is that the cooperating of union clubs and league clubs in the UK in the RLC is yielding real benefits for both sports. It?s a shame the IRFU have taken this attitude and I think they have underestimated RLI's determination!