Thursday, 14 June 2012

Complicating the Uncomplicatable (2012)

Ever since the introduction of the Rugby League International Federation (the successor of the International Rugby League Board in 1998), the International game has been in a steady decline.

It’s inability to have set rules for the code in every country the game is played in has been a minor issue for many years, but the most burgeoning problem they have has been surrounding the one thing of which there was never an issue before.

The one thing which it would appear would be so crystal clear without any grey area whatsoever, the most certain of all certainties.

International eligibility.

The International body began its existence in 1927, initially known as the Imperial Rugby League Board. It contained representatives from Britain, New Zealand and Australia. The big ideas of post-war French officials lead to the creation of the International Rugby League Board in 1948. Paul Barriere was the chief of French Rugby League at the time and he put forward plans for a World Cup. The French provided the trophy and the venues for the first competition in 1954.

The International game blossomed and soon games were played in USA, South Africa and Italy among other nations. By the late 1970’s, Papua New Guinea had a test team. The game continued growing right up until the Superleague war in Australia put International Rugby League in disarray.

In 1998, the games governing body was again reformed, this time as the Rugby League International Federation. In its time it has increased the number of member countries to twelve, however with half of these nations all located in the Oceania region, it has seen a lot of players leave the smaller islands to play in the ‘big time’ in either New Zealand or Australia.

The RLIF believed it needed to clearly define set rules for player eligibility, which had previously followed the very practical and inflexible rule – You play for the country you were born in.

Four core rules were created to define eligibility, providing greater flexibility, but also creating great controversy and confusion. While the core rules seem solid enough, all they have done is taken a simple, obvious, clear-cut rule and muddied the waters in what can only be believed to be a misguided attempt to improve the game

Internationally, by allowing prominent players born in either New Zealand, England or Australia, to play for a weaker International side.

Sounds good in theory, but the RLIF insistence on flexibility has all but muddied the waters and made the whole process a joke. It’s turned the International game into a mess.

A player is eligible to play an International game for:

1. A country he was born in
2. A country in which either his parents or grand-parents were born
3. A country he has lived in for at least 3 years prior to selection
4. A country he has gained senior international honours in any sport

Players who qualify for dual International representation are seen as taking the ‘easy way’ to International level football by playing with their second nation so to speak, because they may not have been good enough to break into the team representing the country they were born in.

If a player born in Australia, but with Tongan heritage decides to play for Tonga, he is not allowed to represent any other nation….

….until after the next World Cup has finished, or two years have passed since his last international game for Tonga.

Herein lies the biggest issue with the entire guidelines. They are set this way to allow a player to play International football, but to also play for his country of birth down the track if he so wishes.

This concept entirely removes pride for representing ones country, the once highest accolade a player could ever achieve. It has cheapened the International game, essentially whoring it out in a pathetic attempt to improve the quality of the game internationally.

And that has failed.

These rules are farcical and borderline insane. There are many great ways this Federation can improve the game Internationally, but this cheap pathetic ploy is getting out of control and turning the game into a parody. There would be close to half of all senior Rugby League players eligible to play for different nations to that of the one they were born in.

These rules need to be scrapped and we need to go back to common sense, for the sake of the game!

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