This weekend saw Stade Francais entertaining Harlequins in the last game of the group stages of the European Challenge Cup. A must win for Quins after the 28-0 bonus point, ‘victory,’ awarded to Stade due to the Timisoara Saracens forfeit for not sufficiently protecting their pitch against freezing.
Putting the vital game to one side, I would like to address the issue of Stade Francais being guilty of the same pitch negligence on the lead up to the game today. The Paris side had to delay the game by an hour to allow their pitch to thaw, not only making life harder for the presenters, but no doubt scuppering any return journey plans for the travelling Quins faithful, and for those who stayed, €7 a pint is hardly enough to numb the frustration.
I understand we can’t help the weather, and I’m all for safety in the game, but for a top tier side in a lucrative Rugby nation, I cannot see how this was allowed to happen. Given the recent narrative between Stade and Timisoara, you’d like to think they’d have the foresight to ensure a safe playing field. The fine towards Timisoara was for, ‘inadequate precautions taken,’ I really struggle to see why we won’t see the same or indeed any repercussions for the French side for seemingly the exact same breach.
Looking at the issues last week, I can understand why the match was abandoned in Romania, but a £26,000 fine in a developing Rugby nation is a pathetic and brainless, almost cowardly outcome. Surely giving a loss would be enough, without bringing the monetary aspect to it? Clearly not.
The fine is a huge amount of money to anybody, but it would be short sighted not to mention the difference it would make to a Romanian Rugby Club such as Timisoara. Would it not make sense to implement a fining system relative to a club’s turnover? Even if we were to see Stade Francais punished on the back of today’s goings on, it’s hard to see the same £26,000 having half the impact it would for Timisoara.
How can we expect non-Rugby nations to adopt the game if we impose harsh financial penalties for pitfalls in developing countries of the sport? The relentless weather today in Timisoara is as low as minus seven, compare that to the plus four degree temperature in Paris, you surely have to ask yourselves which is the team more guilty of inadequate preparation, particularly when you take into consideration the gulf in infrastructure differences between Stade Francais and Timisoara Saracens.
It’s time to take stock of our penalty system, and look to a fairer way to penalise teams of varying value and stature, sadly we are unlikely to see this frustrating misbalance in the European game rectified any time soon but I’d be intrigued to hear any of your thoughts in the comment section below…
… Oh, and Congratulations to Stade Francais on their qualification to the knockout stage of the Challenge Cup, well done.