Monday 25 June 2018

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Leinster's lack of attention to detail leaves a lot to be desired

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photo: Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

At the press conference after Leinster's win over Cardiff last weekend, Leo Cullen quickly turned his thoughts to South Africa. The squad would fly out on the Tuesday, he said. There was great excitement. He was up for it himself as, despite a long and successful rugby career, he had never been to South Africa. Pack yisser bags lads.

Lucky for Leo there has been no falling out between Ireland and South Africa on the immigration front, so access for him is not an issue. Not so lucky for Leo the same is not the case between New Zealand and South Africa. So before clearing immigration in Joburg last week already he was minus his captain, Isa Nacewa - or Visa Nacewa as we saw him referred to - and Jamison Gibson-Park.

Immediately it brought back memories of Felipe Contepomi having to sit out the pool stages of the Heineken Cup, in 2003/'04. Leinster had forgotten to sort the right paperwork for him. Their appeal was rejected. The then manager Ken Ging was handed the can and in fairness to him, carried it off with some dignity.

Interestingly there are no volunteers to make that walk this time, despite senior management having swooped successfully to carry off the PR Clusterfuck 2017 award.

First, the administrative error. We suspect the average family going outside the EU on holiday would at least ask the question about visas. But it's conceivable they might forget. It's reasonable, however, to expect higher standards of a professional sports organisation. They get paid well to eliminate the kind of human errors the rest of us make as a matter of course.

Pro14 claim they made all the clubs aware of the visa issues involved and went so far as to include a template on how to apply. They are unsure exactly when these documents were sent out, exactly to whom, and how many were confirmed as received. Even if they were all received it's unclear how many of them were read.

Given the haste with which the tournament was put together there was a blizzard of paperwork in the air. Others, like the Ospreys who head off in 10 days, managed to read the important bits. Clearly Leinster didn't.

Second was their reaction to the mistake. PR folks will tell you not to open your gob until you know what you're talking about. In Leinsterland they put together a hat-trick of own goals: they issued a statement saying the lads were in limbo, but gave no info on how they would get through the gates; worse again, with staggering arrogance they effectively told their stakeholders to bugger off, that there would be no further comment; then when Guy Easterby, head of rugby operations, came out with his hands up, he never bothered to acknowledge those primary stakeholders: the fans and the sponsors.

For a man viewed as a potential Leinster CEO of the future, this was less than a master class. Between Easterby and the senior management team led by existing CEO Mick Dawson, Leinster demonstrated a poor grasp of the basics.

It's been suggested that the absence from the tour of Leinster's communications manager was a flaw. Maybe if Pro14 been more generous in the number of personnel they were prepared to fund - they bankroll a set number for these South African trips - a communications professional would have gone. Perhaps if Leinster put a higher store on their media relations they would have funded the travel of such a person themselves. In any case, communication with home wasn't the issue so the crisis could have been managed. Rather it was all about attention to detail, before and after the event.

Sunday Indo Sport

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