Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The banning of Danny Care is wrong

The England Rugby Footballer Danny Care has been banned from this year’s 6 Nations tournament by the Rugby Football Union. He was arrested on suspicion of drink driving on New Year’s Eve and will face the courts later this month.
That Care has been extremely foolish is beyond dispute -  the the Law rightly provides for tough sanctions in such cases and justice will no doubt be done in the courts.
But for Care’s employers, the RFU and Harlequins, to take such extreme action strikes me as inappropriate and self-important. To say that it is none of the RFU’s business might be going a tad too far but I lean much more towards that view than I do to the view that the Rugby authorities have legitimately taken action.
Lets start with the admittedly hypothetical question as to what the RFU’s action would have been if it had been, say, an employee in the Twickenham Ticket Office who had been caught drink driving. Would the RFU have suspended that individual if the offence had occurred on a holiday day and at a time when the employee was not on RFU business? I very much doubt it. With a few exceptions our work lives and our private lives are kept separate – and rightly so. During my career there were one or two cases of drink driving amongst colleagues or acquaintances. Unless their job required these individuals to drive then the employer, Shell, took no action. Shell was not condoning drink driving in doing this it was recognising the important divide between what is their concern and what is not.
In Mr Care’s case it seems, as he himself in his statement suggests, that the “Role Model” card was being played by the RFU. Care says I do understand the need for England players to be role models in the game and have tried to live up to that at all times”  This is a good remark not least for the use of the short phrase “in the game”.  England players have a deplorable record in recent times when on duty. “On duty” means on the pitch, of course, but also between matches when on tour. The players let themselves and their country down in this regard as recently a the last Rugby World Cup. But Care was not “On Duty” on New Year’s Eve and, frankly, it was none of his employers’ business what he got up to. Perhaps if he had danced naked in a fountain in Trafalgar Square chanting   “The RFU Committee are Old Farts” his employer could have legitimately taken an interest. But in fact Care’s offence was a purely private matter between him, his family and his friends. He was emphatically not “On Duty”.
I do not know whether Danny Care has a legal case against the RFU for having suspended him and potentially ruined his career to punish him for an offence that was none of their business. And I can quite imagine that the pompous and absurdly over the top condemnation of Care by England’s stand in coach Stuart Lancaster will have gone down well in the Home Counties saloon bars where old fartdom still reigns. But it is for the law to take sanctions against Danny Care, and it will, not for the RFU top brass wallow in self-satisfied, pompous and self-congratulatory and damning rhetoric at a time when a kindly arm around the shoulder of the young man might have been more decent and effective.