LOVELY stuff, money. Except, that is, when it comes into contact with rugby. Then you begin to wonder. Not about the under-the-table stuff, or even, in these enlightened times, the over-the-table stuff. If players of genuine talent can put together packages of decent houses, sponsored cars and ghosted columns, then good luck to them. Who cares? Nice work if you can get it.
But what you really have to wonder at is sponsorship, or rather the willingness of sponsors to lard their cash over areas of the game that are perfectly well larded already. Bankers, brewers and all those other hard-nosed movers and shakers of the business world seem perfectly myopic when new opportunities really arise.
At some time in the future, and the sooner the better, we will have a Scottish Cup competition. Sponsors are queuing up already. But long before then next month in fact we will have had an international rugby tournament, a world championship involving more than 400 players and officials from 12 countries, contested at various venues throughout Scotland. And where is the queue of tournament sponsors? Where indeed.
When you consider the scale of the operation, the television, the media interest and the unstinting, selfless efforts of the organisers it is an astonishing absence. Until you realise that it is the Women's World Championships that is about to take place. Girlies, by jove. Now that might explain something.
But sponsors or not, when the Scottish Women's Rugby Union announce the tournament's final format at a launch in Edinburgh on Wednesday, the occasion will represent a remarkable achievement for women's rugby in Scotland. Three years ago, the SWRU were not even represented when the first tournament was held in Wales. Three months ago they had no idea that they would be hosting the second. Holland should have been the venue, but an acrimonious fall-out between the Dutch organising committee and their IRB representative, confusion over the affiliation status of the Dutch women's union, shirt sponsorship regulations and just about everything else led to a flurry of faxes announcing the cancellation of the event. ``Dutch clubs are in a dreadful temper,'' read one. Sue Brodie, SWRU chairperson and international fullback, seized the opportunity.
``Everybody was shocked,'' said Sarah Floate, SWRU spokeswoman. ``But Sue started thinking `why don't we have it here?'. The SRU said they would support us logistically, but in fact we've done most of it ourselves.'' Not that there is any dispute between the two governing bodies. Indeed, separate development is seen as the best way forwards, associate membership of the SRU giving the SWRU both the freedom to develop as they see fit and a sufficient level of support. Full affiliation could constrain progress, as it has for the New Zealand women's union, who will not be able to compete in the tournament as it does not come under IRB rules.
Problems like these will be raised at a conference held during the tournament and moves will almost certainly be made to establish an international governing body for women's rugby. But the occasion will also celebrate the growth of the game in Scotland, where there are now 21 teams playing in a three-division league structure, with new clubs being established all the time.
Of course, they might also celebrate the wisdom and foresight of their sponsors. The cost? ``Totally negotiable,'' according to Brodie. ``The tournament will happen anyway, but it is a good opportunity to increase profile. You can put my phone number in if you like.''
Would we do that? Of course we would: 031-661 1179.
Copyright (C) The Sunday Times, 1994
"Wanted: sponsor with a little imagination; Rugby." Sunday Times [London, England] 6 Mar. 1994