The furore over British Lions coach Warren Gatland’s controversial decision to drop Irish and British Lions legend Brian O’Driscroll has opened up questions of quotas, xenophobia and a win-at-all-costs mentality.
It takes me back (believe it or not) to a day in the lower sixth at school when the head of our house (nothing fancy, I went to a “comp”) pulled me to one side and asked me whether I would captain and pick the house badminton side – I played a lot of tennis so that would do!
Scanning the house for candidates I quickly realised that nobody actually played badminton. We had courts but we never played, just the odd occasion in games lessons.
I did however know who played tennis. So, I dutifully selected an excellent player from the year above who I’d seen play and destroy her opponent in straight sets the week before and I knew could play badminton too and then selected two more from the cricket team.
I was pleased with the selection and we won our first round 4-0, no problems. It was then that I was asked by our house master about my selection and whether I might include some people who hadn’t played sport for the house before. Hmm, tricky. I’d already picked my wining team. Worse still, the options she wanted me to play were frankly awful at sport.
That was why they hadn’t played and why I didn’t select them in the next game either. We won again and again I was asked to think about involving the other “candidates”. I politely explained that we were quite likely to win the tournament now and I didn’t want to change just to get people involved.
Long story short, we won. Next year, I wasn’t made captain. It appeared my blinkered search for a win was against the spirit of the house.
Which is the fine line Mr Gatland is treading right now. The radio waves were full this morning of people accusing him of bias, of being pro-Welsh, win-at-all-costs, destroying the spirit of the Lions and not “getting it” as a foreign type.
He has been accused of missing what it is all about. A secret blend of all nations that unites us all.
However, one might argue that is not his job. His job is to win the series. If he is more comfortable with a side dominated by Welsh players it is hardly surprising. He knows them and he feels that a side with them in it will win. Whether it has X amount of English, Irish or Scots in it is irrelevant. Although, even with my limited rugby knowledge, I think dropping BOD altogether is an error.
My point here though isn’t about that. It is that it seems Gatland is in danger of losing the PR game. Frankly, I doubt he cares. Guess who does though? The media. Whether they actually care is debatable, they just know that if they write and talk about it we will listen, read and interact.
That means better sales, better audience figures and pats on the back all-round. Remember that with your own PR campaigns…”will this make a good story and will the editor thank me for it?”
So, what do you think? Has Gatland gone too far? Does it matter?