Sam Allardyce, once the boss of Bolton, Blackburn and Newcastle, is now in charge of West Ham who in football circles are often known as “the Academy” because of their approach to stylish football, though admittedly more in history than present day.
Last week, in light of more damaging headlines concerning behaviour of multi-millionaire footballers, Allardyce claimed rugby players were guilty of far more serious thuggery than those in his own sport.
His statement for the defence included the observation that “the game (football) is a volatile contest so people will lose their temper, but nobody seems to highlight the fact that rugby players stamp on each other’s heads, gouge each other’s eyes, and that seems to be acceptable.”
A couple of points or order. First, The Tig does not see football as a “volatile contest” when so much time is spent avoiding physical contact to the extent of diving over intended challenges for possession. Second, and far more important, is the comment that foul play in rugby is either acceptable or not highlighted, especially when it comes to stamping on heads and gouging eyes.
In our game, foul play is open not only to sanction from three match officials on duty, but also from the eyes of up to 20 cameras and yet another match official after the match. Now there is also a fourth official who can watch video footage instantly if foul play is reported and the incident can be dealt with during the match, and again in a disciplinary hearing afterwards.
Stamping in any form is rare in the game these days, stamping on heads has always been so. And gouging is acknowledged as just about the worst thing that can happen on a rugby field. It is indefensible and dealt with severely by the authorities.
That makes bad behaviour unacceptable in any sense of the word.
Allardyce, known as ‘Big Sam’ in football though at 6ft 4in probably just ‘Sam’ if he played rugby, is miles off target with this shot in the dark.