It’s been a torrid few weeks to be an England and Saracens fan, a time that started with such hope saw a crowd of us rock up at Allianz Park at 8am on a Saturday morning to watch England win the World Cup.
That didn’t quite go to plan as South Africa pretty much did to us what we did to the All Blacks, perhaps Warren Gatland was right and England had put in their all in that astonishing semi-final. Losing Kyle Sinckler after 2 minutes didn’t help. But the match literally personified the rugby saying – The forwards decide who’s going to win the match, the backs by how much – England were out muscled from minute one. Although I was disappointed I couldn’t feel too upset to see Siya Kolisi lift the William Webb Ellis Trophy, that was momentous for his nation.
Saracens won the match that afternoon, beating London Irish narrowly, so that, while not overly entertaining was a good thing as was lunch with good Saracens friends beforehand.
The real blow was to come a few days later with news of a 35 point deduction and a £5.3 Million fine for Saracens. The long awaited result of an investigation of the Salary Cap had produced the worst possible outcome for the club.
My initial feeling was one of disbelief, how could this have been allowed to happen? I’d felt certain that a man with the business acumen of the multi-millionaire Nigel Wray would’ve made certain all was good, above board and in line with the regulations.
The full facts of the breach aren’t known by anyone other than those carrying out the investigation, Premiership Rugby and those who need to know at Saracens. And to a great degree the facts won’t come out as they involve individuals.
That emotion of disbelief remains but added to it have been anger and disappointment too, mostly towards the club I’ve supported for 10 years, but also towards so many others
I’ve thought for a while that we live in a time of toxic media, with the likes of newspapers and various sites producing ‘click bait’ material in the extreme. And that’s driven a toxic attitude from so many who use various social media platforms.
Although this sports writing I do is just a hobby I take it very seriously and like to keep things professional, I’ve been shocked by how some of the so called professionals involved in the game have chosen to stick the boot in, the likes of Alastair Eykyn, Andy Goode and Lawrence Dallaglio seem to have almost taken pleasure in something which could well prove to be a disaster not only for Saracens but also for the game as a whole in this country.
To a great extent I haven’t been shocked by some of the bile thrown towards supporters such as me by fellow rugby supporters, they’re mirroring what they see from the media they follow. But I have been incredibly disappointed.
There seems to be a notion that us Saracens supporters aren’t real, the term ‘plastic fans’ seems to be a favourite. I object to that greatly! I’ve checked every part of my person and other than my contact lenses I can find no plastic!
A typical toxic example came from Twitter today, from an Irish rugby fan, who lives in England – Happy Heineken Cup day, everyone. safe & gastronomic travels (Not you, Saracens) – that’s plain unpleasant, happily we arrived safely in Paris today and hope to get home safely too!
My support for the club is fairly recent, just 10 years and yes, in that time they’ve gone from being a mid-table club to a champion club. My closest rugby union club, should I have walked away when they started winning? One thing that’s very certain is that I won’t be walking away now they face some adversity.
Many of my friends have a much longer association with the club, my friend Sheila who I’m sitting next to as I write this on our way to Paris has been supporting the team for 55 years, watching her first match at Bramley Road through the fence. Many other friends have shared their stories of a long association with this club.
One of my biggest passions in the game is player welfare, therefore I take a big interest in disciplinary panel decisions, they’re an indicator of how seriously World Rugby are taking the subject in my opinion. I interact a lot in various Facebook groups and commented on one such decision to be told I couldn’t have an opinion because of the team I support. That kind of attitude is everything that’s wrong with how others have reacted to this. I and my fellow fans have done nothing wrong, we haven’t invested our own money in various companies, oh to be that wealthy! Nor have we set players salaries.
What we’ve done is support our club and everyone I know will continue to do so, please don’t insult us for the team we support, we have the same high regard for our team as you do for yours. Perhaps take a breath and think clearly before you post something scathing towards the players, employees and fans of Saracens. I’ve been lucky enough to interview Nigel Wray, he doesn’t deserve the hate being thrown his way either, his absolute passion after his family is for this club. I do have to quote Sir Clive Woodward here
Let me first declare an interest. I have known Nigel Wray a long time and like him immensely. He is a seriously good guy who has been putting his money where his mouth is since the birth of professional rugby.
In fact he is the only original club owner who has lasted the distance and his commitment has never swerved. His investment of time, effort and money in the game has been monumental.
Mistakes have clearly been made and very possibly in a big way. But hate is never a good thing, for us fans this is our hobby not our lives for those employed by the club it’s their mortgage, their everything. As a rugby community let’s do our best to remember our rugby values.