IN fairness to the SRU, they didn’t ever explicitly claim that their decision to play an extra Autumn Test match outside the international window – triggering a number of serious player welfare concerns – would result in a direct contribution from the governing body to Doddie Weir’s charity.
The press release issued by Murrayfield back in January to announce this new addition to the rugby calendar opened with the following two sentences –
Scotland will play Wales in a brand-new fixture this November as part of an extended Autumn Series.
Gregor Townsend’s side will face their NatWest 6 Nations rivals in Cardiff on Saturday November 3 and contest the ‘Doddie Weir Cup’, as both teams support the former Scotland and British & Irish Lions player who has been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.
There is no mention in the remainder of the release about any specific contribution being made towards the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, which seeks to raise funds and awareness for the former Scotland second-row’s brave battle against Motor Neurone Disease.
Similarly, the WRU’s press release on the same day stated –
This game will also be the first occasion when a newly created ‘Doddie Weir Cup’ will be played for – donated by the Welsh Rugby Union, the trophy will continue to be at stake when the two sides meet in future similar circumstances.
In June 2017 former Scotland international and British & Irish Lion Doddie Weir revealed he was suffering from Motor Neurone Disease and, from the outset, has been driven to help fellow sufferers and seek ways to further research into the, as yet, incurable disease.
Doddie and his Trustees launched the registered charity ‘My Name’5 Doddie Foundation’ and a series of Welsh rugby initiatives over the course of the weekend will raise money for the foundation and bring Scottish and Welsh rugby communities together.
There was also a quote from WRU Chief Executive Martyn Phillips –
Scotland’s visit is the result of some innovative thinking from the national squads, rugby management and marketing teams of both nations and is set to light up another scintillating campaign.
Which, at least, proves that stomach-churning hubris is not the sole preserve of the SRU executive.
Later emails from both organisations explain how fans can donate to the charity when buying tickets or at the ground on match-day, but don’t state that they (the Unions) will be joining supporters in contributing to this most worthy of causes.
An email from the WRU to rugby followers last Friday night – just as this storm was beginning to build momentum – quoted SRU Chief Operating Officer Dominic McKay. It is more interesting because of what is not said than what is –
“The My Name’5 Doddie Foundation is one of Scottish Rugby’s official charity partners and throughout our Autumn Tests, beginning in Cardiff next Saturday, and then back at BT Murrayfield against Fiji, South Africa and Argentina, we will continue to raise awareness of the Foundation and its fund-raising to assist those affected by this appalling condition and drive forward research to find a cure.”
So, nobody can unequivocally say they were misled on this issue. However, when the story broke yesterday morning that neither the SRU or the WRU were going to be sharing any of the seven-figure sums of cash each will collect from staging Saturday’s match with Weir’s charity, the reaction on social media made it very clear that there was a serious lack of understanding amongst the general rugby-supporting public about what exactly the driving forces behind this new match really are.
This game was added to schedule outside World Rugby’s international window to raise cash for WRU and SRU. Having Doddie’s name attached generates a lot of good will which wouldn’t otherwise be there.
Time for the governing bodies to do right thing.https://t.co/WJHvpsmebI
— THE OFFSIDE LINE (@theoffsideline) October 27, 2018
And it wasn’t only the punters venting their displeasure. Scotland national team players and coaches also liked and shared posts about how disappointing a situation this is.
You can’t help but wonder what the SRU and WRU were thinking.
Did these governing bodies really assume that the sensitivity of the issue – people’s deep compassion for a true Scottish rugby icon – would protect them from scrutiny?
Or, did they really not realise their moral obligation to redirect just a small percentage of the cash which is going to flow into their coffers as a result of this match towards a man who stands for everything that is good about Scottish rugby, in light of his charity being their biggest marketing asset?
Cynical or stupid? I’m not sure which of these two possible scenarios is more appalling.
Next weekend in Cardiff, rugby supporters will pull together for Doddie & his foundation. The unions will go big on awareness-raising, which is welcome, but when this game has been arranged to make money, the right thing for them to do is make a direct financial contribution too.
— Mark Palmer (@MarkPalmerST) October 27, 2018
The sound of silence … again
The SRU, as is their custom these days, kept their head down yesterday. Leaving Weir’s old international team-mate Scott Hastings, the Chairman of Trustees for My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, to attempt to pour oil on turbulent waters in a statement issued on the charity’s website –
One week to go until the Doddie Weir Cup, and in response to some questions we have received about the match, we have prepared the following statement.
“The match at The Principality Stadium on 3rd November is a wonderful tribute to Doddie and he is honoured to have his name on the new trophy.”
“It is a personal tribute to Doddie but also the opportunity for his Foundation to continue to raise awareness of Motor Neurone Disease. There are a number of fund raising and community activities around the match, and these include an eve of match dinner at the stadium which will be attended by Doddie, Gregor Townsend, Shaun Edwards, and other rugby greats.”
“The Foundation very much appreciates the support of Scottish Rugby, the WRU and the wider rugby community – all have stepped up since Doddie’s diagnosis. My Name’5 Doddie Foundation was launched almost a year ago at Murrayfield and the level of support has been incredible.”
“The generosity of people has been amazing and has helped Doddie and the trustees further their goals of investing significant funds into research to find a cure for this devastating disease and help support those affected by MND.”
Chairman of Trustees
My Name’5 Doddie Foundation
See you in Cardiff!
It should be said that Weir was in fine form when he met the press on Thursday afternoon to promote his recently published autobiography. Brilliantly balancing the need to address the serious issues relating to his health and outlook, with his natural zest for life.
A new – specially created – tartan suit is being unveiled next Saturday, he revealed: “Funnily enough, it’ll be two colours – red and blue”. And it looks like there is going to be some sort of grand entrance from the guest of honour: “I’ll be doing something different, but I’m looking forward to it”.
“We’re going to embrace it,” Weir elaborated. “It’s very kind of them, the trophy being named ‘Doddie’s Cup’ because I’m still here, and normally you get that honour when you’re not here – so they maybe thought something different! But with the whole family and friends, and where we are with things, it’s going to be a memorable weekend.
“I think it’s going to be quite an interesting match and with any luck the incentive might be there that the boys can bring this trophy back to Murrayfield and put it in the museum.
“Hamilton & Inches have done an absolutely fantastic job in making it with some big handles to emulate my massive ears!”
The most striking feature of the whole briefing was the brave way the great man went out of his way to address the stark reality of his situation.
“I’ve had nearly two years of this horrific disease,” he said at one point, when asked if working on the biography had been a cathartic experience. “But I was at a dinner earlier this week in London and some people have only three months between diagnosis and death, so they maybe haven’t had time to speak to their kids and jot things down, whereas I’ve fortunately been able to write a book and document it.
“Hopefully people enjoy reading it because I have no regrets. I am very fortunate with my life at the moment, and with any luck this can help give someone else a bit of heart.”
The elephant in the room for a lot of the journalists present was this issue of the SRU’s direct contribution (or lack of) to the charity, but nobody asked Weir. There was a silent recognition that this is not his battle to fight. He has more than enough on his plate as it is and has nothing to gain from rocking the SRU boat.
Besides, regardless of the shameless exploitation of his ‘brand’ that the SRU and WRU are guilty of, the charity will still be better off as a result of their connection with the match through associated exposure and related fundraising activities.
Do it for Doddie
Saturday will be a great occasion to honour a truly great Scottish sporting personality. It can, and should, be an opportunity for real rugby people to come together to show their appreciation and demonstrate their support for a giant of the game, who is fighting a brave battle in the face of insurmountable odds.
Don’t be put off by the cynicism of those who have forgotten – or never knew – what the sport really stands for. Buy a ticket, tune in on either TV or radio, get engaged on social media, talk about the game at the pub, make a donation, BUY DODDIE’S BOOK, be inspired to organise your own event to help make a difference to a really important cause.
A final word from Thursday’s briefing, from the guy this is really meant to be about, might help add some much-needed perspective.
“If you have a bad party, who do you blame? You only have yourself to blame. I’ve never had a bad party. Every time you go out … enjoy yourself and enjoy life for what it is. That’s how I’ve gone through life.”
Keep it going, Doddie. A real inspiration.