In my view: Pirates comment by Dick Straughan
THERE is no getting away from it, the end to the Championship season has been nothing short of farcical.
With Stadium issues upsetting the Pirates and promotion being denied London Welsh pending a legal battle with the RFU, nine months of high quality rugby ended in chaos.
It was probably in keeping with what had gone before that the trophy presentation at the Kassam Stadium was a PR disaster for the RFU. And I really felt sorry for both teams as the spectacle unfolded.
With a podium hastily erected after a deserved victory for London Welsh, the RFU delegation strode out onto the pitch for the ceremony. They were greeted by a chorus of boos and a wall of outright derision from the 3,000 strong crowd.
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At first it seemed like cheeky banter, but as the volume picked up it was clear that this was no joke. The Welsh players were quickly ushered through to collect their medals and then, with almost indecent haste, called back to collect the trophy. As the silverware was raised aloft the cacophony of discontent escalated and all the time the Pirates squad stood and looked on in silence.
I felt a bit for Welsh skipper Jon Mills as he paraded the Championship trophy, because the abuse was neither directed at him or his team. They had won fair and square. But there was nothing for the Pirates players to collect. No runners-up medals and not even a handshake from the dignitaries. A whole year's worth of blood, sweat and tears totally blanked by officialdom. Disgraceful.
In a full press box journalists from far and wide looked on in astonishment as the RFU party were ushered off and the hooting and hollering subsided. As the Welsh finally celebrated, nobody could forget the clear message sent by fans of both teams in unprecedented scenes.
Even before a ball had been kicked the bungling, blundering Cornwall Council had kicked the Pirates firmly in the proverbials by confirming that there would be no public money to build the Stadium.
The Pirates reacted angrily, stating that they had asked that the news be released only after the final had been played. A fair and logical request, it would seem, but ignored by a regime which claimed, in its defence, that the decision had been thoroughly democratic.
There are a lot of people supporting this scheme who have raised an eyebrow at that. Procedure may have been followed, but the bottom line is that public funding has been refused because the ruling Tories don't get on with each other. That's petty and childish, not an example of democracy.
So now the Pirates are again looking for private funding to fill the £10 million shortfall in the construction costs. If they get it and it all happens in time then don't expect the Stadium to serve the community any more.
It will be a Pirates stadium built with Pirates money and with the profits going to the Pirates and their investors, maintaining the old adage that if you want something done badly enough, then do it yourself.
I wish London Welsh well in their legal battle to win promotion, but hope they can afford it. People in power never readily admit to even the most blatant of failings no matter how unpopular they may be, or how loud the booing is.