News Off the Ball

Thursday 2 October 2014

Here's a promise - no more rugby contract talk on our programme

Ger Gilroy

Published 22/01/2014 | 02:30

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Talk of Sean O'Brien going to France is no more - much to Leinster fans' relief
Talk of Sean O'Brien going to France is no more - much to Leinster fans' relief

Everyone's a winner. That's the mantra coming down after central IRFU deals were done for Sean O'Brien, Paul O'Connell, Keith Earls and a few more recently. Generally it's true - we're all delighted our best players will, on the whole, be staying. But do spare a thought for the hours we've all lost talking about the intricacies of contract discussions.

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So, here's a promise - no more rugby contract talk on Off The Ball. In future we'll acknowledge when a deal is done or even on the odd occasion that someone does decide to live in France on big wages.

Getting sucked into the 'will he, won't he' saga of tedium is ultimately worthless. It cheapens us all and wastes time when we could be discovering new things, or talking about the game itself.

Of course, there's an inevitability that negotiations will get conducted in this way, with claim and counter-claim leaked through the media in a bid to drive up salaries, commissions and opportunities. That's how all entertainment industry contracts work. Professional rugby is practically a new sport and the money sluicing through the French game is an addition that hasn't fully revealed all its consequences.

Add in the convoluted uncertainty surrounding the Heineken Cup and it's fair to say that rugby in Europe is experiencing its most uncertain period since the game turned pro.

This is, all in all, most likely a great thing for the game. More money will eventually lead to better coaching, better scouting, better coverage and (fingers-crossed) a better game.

In fairness to the IRFU they're playing a game they're not particularly qualified for when it comes to talent management, but they're doing okay so far. They'd also benefit from everyone turning their backs next time it comes to all the money talk. It's a fairly typical Irish reaction anyway.

This might not be much use to the agents of those players who haven't signed deals yet, but I suspect they'll be okay in the end. Everyone's a winner.

Irish Independent

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