What should the IRB do with a national rugby body that can't hold itself together? Or a government for that matter. It seems Fiji is destined to lead the way in brain-explosion policy setting for the foreseeable future. And I wouldn't put it past them to put together a few rash decisions on the field either. For those of you who don't have the foggiest clue as to what I'm talking about you can read up on the New Zealand Herald.
So, first things first. Who doesn't love and remember the Fijians doing something stunning at a world cup at some stage in history? Didn't they beat Wales once? So of course we all want to see a Fijian side in New Zealand. They still have Caucau, right?
But what to do if you're an international sporting organisation tasked with managing the third or fourth or fifth largest four yearly, multi-country sports event? Do you become the villain and deny a bunch of players the chance to run over sidelines, smash into their own players and toss away pill willy-nilly?
Yeah, it's a tough one.
Here's the thing though. When a governing body takes action it forces every party to pay attention. Nobody in New Zealand likes to be reminded of the last time the IRB made a decision to keep someone out of something. But imagine a New Zealand bid this time around that carried the same mentality as before 2003? I shudder at the thought. But the IRB did act, everyone in New Zealand had a good long hard look at themselves and look where we are today!
This month the IRB might be swooping upon a Fijian outfit at odds with its government. The message should be simple - either the board and the government sort their differences out, kiss and make up - or the Fijians aren't welcome in New Zealand. And that's it. Yeah, every man and his dog is going to weep at the imagined loss of entertainment if such an approach leads to a no-show. That's pretty much guaranteed. But the IRB has the position, the right and gosh-darn it the moral obligation to insist upon a respect of the proper hierarchy of authority!
Now here's where I step "out there". Because it is not the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) that has been painted as the bad guys. The New Zealand Herald reported the IRB saying they, "have concerns that the current situation could create instability and have a negative impact on the management of the union and key IRB-funded development and high performance programmes and also Rugby World Cup 2011 preparations. These concerns have been communicated to the union, who have fully assisted with our ongoing enquiries," which is the long (and diplomatic) way of saying, "Sort your crap out!"
The IRB can't say it the short way and the Herald probably doesn't have the insight to report according to how things most likely are. But here are how things most likely are - the FRU are fighting a war they should not be fighting. They are at odds with the national government, or whoever has the most guns as of the time this article was posted. I'm "out there" because I believe the IRB should insist the FRU submit to its government which will not be a popular opinion.
Why would I insist on a silly thing like that for? Aren't battles with evil government forces the things great movies are made of? Perhaps, but I'm not here to be popular. I'm here to be right. The IRB should insist that every national body be in submission to its government. The Fiji decision should be a no-brainer (and would save on airfares - no, not the Fijian rugby team's to NZ, the IRB's to Fiji!).
Here's what the IRB's decision flowchart should look like:
Does the government recognise the FRU?
Yes? Then they are welcome in Kiwiland.
No? Then hit the road.
Simple. Clean. Let's get on with it.
When a governing body takes action it forces every party to pay attention. Nobody in Fiji will like to be reminded of the time their national team was denied a place in the 2011 world cup. But imagine a Fijian setup that continues to compromise with a bunch of corrupt politicians? Chuck them out and the people will moan and complain for a while, but then they'll look at the problem and maybe do something about it.
Or we could paper over the issue.
Now let's pretend like we know that the Fijian government is a bunch of money-grabbing criminals hell bent on world domination and using slave labour to do it. Should we still rule that the FRU cede to that authority? No, we shouldn't (duh). But we should not do so because the FRU should not be recognised because the government should not be recognised in such a case. IRB rules are that a national body be the sole recognised rugby organisation within a nation. No recognition of the government by the IRB, no rugby board to recognise.
But the situation is not at that level. All this issue is a petty little power grab by a few politicians. The IRB should deal with them as they dealt with the silly New Zealanders a decade ago.