Monday, 6 February 2017

Notes from Moseley

And so we roar back into life with a look at rugby union. It seems appropriate to begin with a note on Joost Van Der Westhuizen, who died earlier today aged 45. That's no age at all. I don't suppose anyone who saw it will forget the immense tackle he put in on Jonah Lomu in the 1995 World Cup Final - helping the Springboks on their way to a famous victory.

At a time when there's more money in the global game than ever before, stories are beginning to break in the press that the fans have known were coming for years. Rugby below the premiership in the UK is suffering. Championship and National One rugby has been an entertaining "product" for years, but it doesn't get the crowds that the spectacle deserves. It's not hard to see why when so much of the money in the sport is kept at the Premiership level. London Welsh tried valiantly to beat the system, winning the principle of fair funding, but much good it did them  - their liquidation was announced the other week. Now we read in the press that the great and good are considering introducing a promotion playoff between the team finishing top of National One, and the side that comes bottom of the Championship - and so drawbridges go up, players lose hope, and fans lose interest.

Of course, the problems started when the game went professional - the RFU lost control very early on, and put the leading clubs in the driving seat. Some prospered, others, like Moseley and Coventry, got themselves into enormous trouble trying to keep up. And so we've ended up in a place where the top clubs have bought their spots around the table, leaving the others doomed to spend eternity hanging round the fringes, grateful for the scraps.

Nevertheless, Moseley vs Rosslyn Park on Saturday afternoon was as entertaining as you'd expect, with a blizzard of tries from Mose's Ed Sheldon, more yellow cards than you can shake a stick at, and enough entertainment to send the crowd home happy. But as you stand in the clubhouse at Billesley Common, it's difficult not to feel that the place is haunted by the ghosts of the past. Names like Teague, Webster, Finlan, Doble, Jeavons, Everest, Warren. Names from a time when the country looked at Mose vs Cov as the England trials game; when sides feared to come to the Reddings.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Thankfully, there are supporters who have kept the faith with Moseley, and that there is rugby to watch at all is little short of astonishing after the lows the club experienced - losing the Reddings, a period on the pitches at Birmingham University, and the early infrastructure-light days on the Common. But to kick on Moseley needs investment. Birmingham needs Moseley. It shouldn't be difficult, but it never seems to happen.

Us fans just have to keep the faith and hope something will turn up.

Up the red and black

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