Saturday 24 August 2019

David Kelly: 'So-called 'rugby values' are not superior to the law of the land - this smacks of closing ranks'

Celebrating: The Leinster team with the cup after the Guinness PRO14 final against Glasgow Warriors. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Celebrating: The Leinster team with the cup after the Guinness PRO14 final against Glasgow Warriors. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Sport, often with a degree of pomposity, prides itself on virtues of values, and no sport spouts the nebulous concept as vigorously as rugby union.

However, the 'values' that rugby in this country often claims have been left open to ridicule by the response of Leinster Rugby to this affair.

As has been reported, in the early hours of May 26 in the salubrious surroundings of Dublin 4's InterContinental Hotel, it is understood that a former Leinster player delivered a punch of sufficient force to render an academy player unconscious.

Many witnesses, some of them widely known to the Irish public, saw the incident take place.

Prompted by swirling rumour - and the unrelated investigation by the IRFU concerning a Leinster-based player after allegations of another criminal assault, urination on a member of the public - Leinster Rugby were forced into public disclosure.

Except it merely revealed a quite private conclusion.

Precisely how does one measure the "satisfaction of all parties"?

Or, dare we ask, how much it costs, not so much in financial terms, but morally?

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Were this alleged incident to occur in any workplace, legal proceedings would almost be inevitable, so did Leinster Rugby, and does rugby itself, deem itself to be somehow superior to the law of the land, even if not ignorant to it?

And what of the duty of care to a young player making his way in the game, who then sees the club that purportedly espouses values and brotherhood, yet celebrates the very person who only days earlier had knocked him senseless?

For a sport and club that prides itself on promoting role models, neither the events of that unseemly night nor the reaction to it offer any sense that this should be the response of any normal society.

Kangaroo courts have long been part of rugby but they are trivial affairs; this purported expedition of swift justice seemed more akin to the sordid sphere of extremist politics that has no place in a mature society.

While a second investigation into the alleged urinating incident will be conducted by the IRFU, one hopes that the resolution in this case does not invite a similar feeling of a whitewash.

It may seem to Leinster Rugby that they have closed their inquiry to the "satisfaction of all parties".

To everyone else, it smacks of them merely closing ranks.

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