The management of controversy in sports is too often reactive rather than proactive, as evidenced by the recent – and all-too prevalent – problems with the upper echelons of English rugby.
On Sunday Delon Armitage became the second player inside four weeks to be arrested and subsequently suspended from England’s elite player squad. Armitage was allegedly involved in an assault at a Torquay nightclub.
Retribution from rugby’s Powers That Be was swift but insignificant. England head coach Stuart Lancaster issued a predictable public announcement detailing the “high standards” expected from players and how “seriously” the England rugby setup takes these things.
To give the England Rugby Union team their dues, they recently brought in Hugh Morris – the England Cricket Board’s managing director – to talk to them about the appropriate behaviour of elite athletes. But given the recent suspension of Danny Care and the widely-publicised antics of the squad during last year’s World Cup in New Zealand, the efforts are akin to shutting the locker room door after the over-paid, over-sexed egg chaser has bolted.
Unfortunately fans and observers don’t expect anything more than a slap on the wrist for Armitage, or the next player who inevitably messes up. And by extension, nor does Armitage… or the next player who inevitably messes up.
Playing top-level sport is a privilege, and athletes in all sports deserve to be held to higher levels of accountability than the man on the street. Armitage, like other elite sportsmen such as perennial naughty boy John Terry, and dog-fighting NFL star Michael Vick, will likely be back playing his sport at the highest level soon enough.
And until that is no longer the case, the England rugby team – and its counterparts in other sports – can expect more and more controversy.
MANAGEMENT UPS AND DOWNS
Peter Reid, India’s Premier League
The former Manchester City and Sunderland manager’s services are to be showcased in India’s upcoming Premier League Soccer competition. The Kolkata franchise of the league, which is modelled on the highly successful cricket IPL, snapped up the impish manager’s talents for a handsome £128,000 at auction.
Steve Cotterill, Nottingham Forest
Perhaps a literal relegation: having lost their last five league games Forest find themselves in the Championship’s drop zone and four points adrift of safety. Billy Davies, the man in charge at the City Ground last year and who took the team to the playoffs twice, recently told the BBC that he has “unfinished business” at the club and would love to return. Oh dear.
Image of Delon Armitage courtesy of Arvedui89 on Flickr: Rugby World Cup England vs. Argentina