Sport Rugby

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Trevor Hogan: Sexton scenario shows why IRFU must keep hold of top players

Trevor Hogan

Published 08/11/2013 | 02:00

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Ireland's Jonathan Sexton

In the context of Johnny Sexton's punishing 13-game schedule with his club so far this season, the decision to give him another few days to recover from his hip injury, is the only sensible option.

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However, the scenario in which Joe Schmidt and his staff have been placed over the last couple of weeks – rendered virtually defenceless to the demands of Racing Metro – vividly highlights the problem of the growing involvement of capital and business interests in the game of rugby.

Players are being increasingly commodified, particularly by the richer clubs in France and England – viewed largely as labour that will maximise profits for the corporate bosses, in the quickest possible time frame. Language like, "investment" and "return" is becoming common-place to describe players.

As seen with the ongoing threats to the future of the European Cup, rugby is in danger of becoming simply a product or a business transaction that no longer represents the values or spirit of the communities it is a part of. In the mind of the millionaire owners, player welfare is increasingly secondary, while the concept of growing the game beyond their cosy executive suites is completely alien.

Schmidt's comments in relation to Sexton – pointing out what happens "when you lose control of a player" – reflects the level of frustration and anger felt by Irish staff at these developments.

Amidst the culture of profit, it is undoubtedly a difficult task the IRFU face in trying to maintain control of its players and grow the game throughout the country.

With capitalism baring its ugly teeth, the implications for the future of rugby here, if the IRFU lose this battle, are clearer than ever.

Irish Independent

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