"Everyone knows that if you’ve got a brother, you’re going to fight." – Liam Gallagher
Rugby siblings Tom and Luke Arscott would have been entitled, until recently, to view the ex-Oasis frontman's musings on brotherly competition with wry amusement.
With Tom playing wing for the Sale Sharks and Luke at full back for Bristol Rugby, the teams were due to meet for a potentially critical Aviva Premiership encounter on New Year's Day. The stage was set for a feisty encounter.
On the day, Bristol fought back from 15-0 down to win 24-23, maintaining their hopes of avoiding relegation. Ironically, as matters transpired, neither brother was selected to play.
Events on the field were swiftly overtaken by revelations that Luke had received tactical information regarding Sale's match plan from Tom over drinks at a pre-match hotel rendezvous and had passed this on to his coaches.
Tom was immediately suspended by Sale, his team-mates having expressed concerns and his contract was later terminated, following the resultant internal investigation.
The Rugby Football Union swung into action, interviewing no less than 25 people from both clubs, in addition to contacting bookmakers to establish if there had been any potential rule breaches. Those detailed findings, published yesterday, found that Tom had indeed discussed tactical information with Luke, specifically the use by Sale of backs in their lineout, as well as the likelihood that another back would be defending in a different position at times.
This was deemed by the RFU to fall at the lower end of the scale of seriousness for inside information, whilst there was no evidence of inappropriate betting patterns or match fixing. Tom received a written warning and will be required to undertake appropriate educational training.
As for both Luke and Bristol and whilst information had been passed on to two coaches, the RFU determined that in the absence of any further evidence, the club had complied with the relevant reporting requirements. Importantly, there was nothing to suggest that Bristol had changed their game strategy to deal with Sale's defensive changes. The RFU closely examine the T.V. footage to satisfy itself that was the case and in fact, Sale scored a try as a direct consequence of Bristol having failed to take on board Tom's input.
Tom has, through a statement released via the Rugby Players Association, expressed himself "disappointed "with the outcome of what he clearly viewed as an innocent and informal social gathering. Meanwhile, Bristol head coach Mark Tainton has expressed considerable irritation at the fact that the club was subjected to this “significant distraction”, in their battle to remain in the Premiership.
Ultimately, Tom may struggle to resume his career, whilst Bristol remain five points adrift at the foot of the table. The moral of the story is that sporting ability doesn't always equate with perfect moral judgment.
At a practical level, the message being sent out by the RFU is that sport's core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship are more than just a mission statement. In the future, any clubs or individuals falling foul of either their contractual or ethical obligations can expect to be dealt with harshly.
As for Tom and Luke, perhaps it would be best to take the Gallagher's advice and ensure they "Don't Look Back In Anger".