Thursday 8 December 2016

Tindall claims England made him scapegoat

Chris Hewett

Published 30/11/2011 | 05:00

Another routine day at world sport's biggest cabaret, otherwise known as the English Rugby Football Union, ended with the sudden departure of the controversial figure of the acting chief executive Martyn Thomas, and a fierce blast of moral outrage from Mike Tindall, of all people on God's earth.

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The England centre Tindall, reinstated to the elite player squad by Thomas on Monday night after being ejected as punishment for his drunken excesses during the recent World Cup campaign in New Zealand, released a statement lambasting the governing body for mistreating him during the disciplinary process. Yes, really.

"While I accept the decision made by the appeal panel," said the Gloucester midfielder, who also had a £25,000 penalty reduced by 40pc, "I still maintain the level of fine is not in line with other RFU disciplinary cases. I am deeply disappointed by the way the RFU has chosen to handle the situation and I have felt throughout the process that my case was made unnecessarily political and public... and that I ended up being a scapegoat."

He went on to emphasise that he accepted his share of responsibility for events in the South Island resort of Queenstown, the night after England's narrow win in the opening pool match with Argentina. There again, he would have been hard pressed not to accept it.

His misbehaviour at a late-night bar, where security cameras captured him canoodling with a blonde, was reported worldwide and was one of the principal factors that sent England's tournament challenge into meltdown.

"I drank too much," he admitted. "It unfortunately created a level of media interest that was an unwanted distraction for myself, my team-mates, Martin Johnson (then England manager) and his staff. I can again only apologise unreservedly for this."

Drummed out of the Test squad on his return by the director of elite rugby Rob Andrew and the union's company secretary and legal officer Karena Vleck, he clawed back significant ground last week when Thomas, very much at loggerheads with Andrew in Twickenham's recent committee-room wars, heard his appeal.

The decision to reinstate Tindall and save him £10,000 into the bargain was announced on Monday night and sent significant numbers of RFU council members into a blind fury.

Complaints were sent to Paul Murphy, the chairman of the governing body, and Ian Metcalfe, the influential management board member who chairs the increasingly influential Professional Game Board. Within hours, it was confirmed the CEO would leave the union immediately rather than on December 16 -- the date originally set when Thomas was effectively stripped of his many and varied roles earlier this month.

Stephen Brown, chief financial officer, will perform the chief executive duties until a permanent appointment is made -- possibly before Christmas, although at least one candidate from the commercial world is thought to have distanced himself from the job as a result of the bad publicity raining down on the RFU as a result of the poor performance in New Zealand.

squabbling

Predictably, there was no reflection of the squabbling and backbiting at Twickenham in the RFU's announcement of Thomas' departure. Murphy thanked him for his time and effort and praised him for his success in winning the hosting rights for the 2015 World Cup, while Thomas himself said it was "entirely logical" that Brown should take over.

In the midst of all this, there was another twist in the sorry tale that is Twickenham. The independent counsel Charles Flint QC, engaged by the RFU to consider whether any disciplinary charges might be brought against Thomas over the deeply contentious dismissal of John Steele from the CEO position last season, found the governing body had no grounds to do anything of the sort.

This is undeniably a victory for Thomas over another of his political rivals, the union's chief disciplinary officer Judge Jeff Blackett who, during a debate on a vote of no confidence in Thomas back in September, had indicated there was sufficient evidence for charges to be laid. It remains to be seen whether this finding will be used by Thomas against his RFU enemies over the coming weeks. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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