herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Fans left out in the cold

THE customer, they say, is always right. Well, not in the eyes of the Six Nations Council, who has rescheduled Ireland's Six Nations match against France at the Stade de France for Sunday, March 4, at 3pm Irish time.

The Irish Rugby Football Union has made its "disappointment" known in a strongly worded statement.

"The IRFU had proposed to the Six Nations that the preferred alternate date for the game would be Saturday, March 3 with an afternoon kick off," the statement read.

"This was based on providing the Ireland team, who will be travelling for a second time to Paris, with a seven-day turnaround between its remaining four fixtures in the tournament as well as providing any supporters wishing to attend the rescheduled game with an appropriate window of travel."

This means Ireland will have an eight-day break from the Italian match in Dublin on Saturday, February 25, and a shorter six-day turnaround for the home tie against Scotland on Saturday, March 10.

Once again, the tournament organisers have gone with the majority rule of the Council to turn away from the Irish supporters and, indeed, those making the journey from the south of France.

The French Federation has agreed to reimburse the cost of match tickets to Ireland and France supporters who will be unable to return to Paris for the rescheduled match.



Prospect

The decision not to hold the game on Saturday, March 3, was made because of that day's busy programme of Top 14 fixtures.

French clubs had demanded France meet Ireland next season so they would avoid the prospect of losing their players to another weekend of international rugby, but this was not an option.

"We sympathise with the French clubs -- it's very difficult for them," said Six Nations chief executive John Feehan.

"We are delighted that we have agreed a new date and time for the France v Ireland match in the Six Nations window.

"If we held the match on the Saturday, we would be going head to head with the club game and that would not be the right thing to do for the championship."

Feehan accepted that changes need to be made to the current rules that only the referee, host union or Six Nations council sitting in its entirety are able to postpone a game.

"We very much regret what has happened. This is not something anybody would have planned for or would have wished to happen," Feehan said.

"It's deeply disturbing. It's terrible that it happened.

"It has happened and we've got to look at how it happened and make sure it doesn't re-occur.

"We're going to have to revisit our procedures for calling a game off."

The sheer lack of generosity towards the travelling supporters in light of what they were put through on Saturday, expecting them to return to Paris for a Sunday match, smacks of an organisation that is totally out of touch with its customer base.

Either that or, frankly, it just doesn't give a damn.

If ever there was a time for the French public to vote with their feet, this is it for the strike-crazy country.

IRELAND'S SIX NATIONS FIXTURES

IRELAND v Italy, The Aviva Stadium, Saturday, February 25 - 1.30

France v IRELAND, Stade de France, Sunday, March 4 - 3.0 (Irish time)

IRELAND v Scotland, The Aviva Stadium, Saturday, March 10 - 5.0

England v IRELAND, Twickenham, Saturday, March 17 -- 5.0

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