As with the behaviour of fans and the interactions of players with referees, rugby seems to be ahead of the game with lockdown breaches. The Barbarians were set to face the England Rugby Union team in October before the game was cancelled due to the Covid-secure bubble being breached by thirteen players. Since then, each player has received a ban ranging from five weeks and sixty hours community service to a two-week ban.
What an excellent display of authority. There were rules, they broke them, they were punished. It’s as simple as that.
Compare that to the frankly pathetic responses of football teams recently.
There was a Christmas party involving four footballers (Sergio Reguilón, Érik Lamela, Giovani Lo Celso and Manuel Lanzini) and their families, amounting to at least eighteen people. Following the party, three played within 48 hours and the other was out with an injury anyway.
David Moyes, Lanzini’s manager at West Ham, said that he didn’t want to make an example out of his player – so he very cunningly avoided that by making an example of him, showing that talented footballers can break Covid rules left, right and centre and suffer no meaningful consequences.
One has to consider why – even following the powerful example set by the RFU – football’s top managers choose to protect their players from the necessary scrutiny. Unless there is a covert power struggle at football clubs that also didn’t allow Pep Guardiola to drop Benjamin Mendy after his New Year’s Eve party – which seems unlikely – managers either don’t care, or forget the fact that footballers are role models to thousands, if not millions of people.
What’s more, it is all well and good dropping someone for their next game or two, that should be the case through Covid rules anyway, but unless they are shown that their actions are wrong, what is to stop these individuals from re-offending. The five week bans and fines issued by the RFU are far more of a deterrent, a strong show of force by a governing body that matches the characteristics of its players.