ALL SPORTS NEED TO ADOPT a more Caring, Vigilant, and Protective Approach towards their athletes (Human Resources’ Health and Wellbeing) | Many people’s family future depends on it!


Sometimes…far too little is done in PREVENTION or encouragement given to ameliorate risks! Other times… far too much is done in ‘promoting’ unnecessary RISKS of reckless behaviour. It seems to me that ignorance and stubbornness are competing against the clear cut evidence presented before our eyes in ‘accidents’ and/or ‘episodes'(?)

And what would be the difference between one and the other? I’d like t think the first one may be avoidable or preventable? Yet, the second ones are recklessly increased by stupidity, ignorance and plain NEGATIVE attitude, generated for the endemic ‘need’ to win at all costs.

Well, the time has come that as progressive societies we have been embracing sciences and technology, promoting an enforceable ‘Duty of Care’ for fellow human beings (and hopefully all kinds of beings!) to make a clear differentiation between one and the other. That is why we need to re-define many actions such as the great footy tackle.

I will just stay with rugby union which I played for 21 years and have been involved for 50 in other capacities, like today a ‘not-so-modest-opinionated irredeemable fanatic of PREPARATION and PREVENTION for any human endeavour (particularly if it requires our health to be involved and committed with)

A long time ago, I was 19 yrs old, a very competitive basketballer and a dear friend of mind invited me to start up with rugby at the Universidad Nacional de Cordoba RC in Cordoba City Argentina. This was just hours after I enrolled myself to study Psychology. I was ‘raw as’, in both, green field opportunity so, today there are a number of personal conclusions I can confidently take.

For one, my body, neck and head in my previous 19 years, was rarely subjected to big SUDDEN IMPACTS (whether you call them ‘tackles’, ‘high tackle’, ‘shoulder charge’, ‘king-hit’, ’embrace’, or any other name/definition of an action attempting to stop me, displace the ball being carried, or to be taken out on a stretcher.

Many times I have been in a dressing room, where that ‘directive’ was pretty concise, clear and left no room for choice or interpretation,… “It is either him or you” – “take-him-out with or without the ball” – “Give him a good one so next time he’ll think twice”, I could continue reciting those ‘instructional’ and motivational phrases proffered for approval and obedience (all of the sudden your selection in one grade or the next appeared at stake and very fragile). In today’s professional rugby (‘obedience’) may mean missing out on a $20.000.- match fee??? And in some extreme cases end of your career. Here is another incongruence, on the field “you must be a man, yet those qualities are not afforded to those players off the field(?) You must be tough on the fied, yet must be soft and… sensitive towards the coaches egos and whims…(?)

Over-inflated obscene contracts have converted great athletes (and Coaches) into everyday mercenaries, with not an iota of human respect for fellow humans. The win at all costs attitude is plain RECKLESS and CRIMINAL! – Attacking the neck and/or the head of an adversary is Not cool.A shoulder charge is Not Cool (with no arms wrapping). This practice/bad habit must be stamped out from all sports. Rues must be changed, games must be adapted to this reality. This must be considered as inexcusable ‘ASSAULT’ on another employee of the code, and be dealt with in a criminal court.

Rugby Union used to be known for its ‘fairness’ and equal risks distribution. Both, attacker and defender are (or must be) equally exposed to those risky situations. No longer, because the ‘interpretation’ of the rules…favours the attacking team, and undermines the defending team. CONTESTABILITY of possession is the key to a fairer rugby game. Pleeeease, bring back the ruck!

My favourite metaphoric phrase, you may have read before which is… “Killed the dog, no more rabies” – That is exactly How all sports must deal with bad intentions, negative attitude, malice, and misbehaviour. No options, No second chances, the hurt athlete does not get second chances or choices… why would you… moron?

Since 1995 (with the beginning of paid-rugby), the element that has been missing here (a lot more often than before 1995, is the Gentlemen’s mantra, ‘Take responsibility for one’s actions’. Rugby has become the game of ‘politicians’, it is or was never my fault, I meant well, etc. etc. We all know (knew) the game is rough and tough as is, there is no need to make it even tougher or riskier. This is a call to our ‘senses’, professional ethics, the values we speak so much about, the respect for lives and livelihoods.

In today’s sports, there is a big confusion between the meaning of ‘hard play’, ‘sportsmanship’, ‘gamesmanship’, ‘cheating’, and assaulting. For far too long many people (particularly coaches and player agents) have been hiding behind the shadows and technicalities of the Lawbook. Twisting and turning the rules for personal advantage is another incongruent ‘evil’. Back in 1970 there barely were two TV cameras filming a rugby match, today is more in the dozens. So, because we can be seen throwing punches and headbutts, some clever coach invented the dirty tactics of gamesmanship and assault so we can take the ‘gun’ player out of the field. Of course, it is great value in that, because you may win a World Cup, or any other trophy.

The recent British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa, seemed to have been more of a Mu-Ay-Thai competition, not gentlemanly rugby? – We also saw the ugly dark side of officials and quasi officials using technology and social media to psychologically create little advantages, by undermining the referees job, which in turn erodes the fair credit received by the opposition winning fair and square.

I will not name names here, yet it was blatantly obvious to the whole world who am I about to refer to. A particular individual (supposedly well educated and socially well adjusted), has created a Law onto himself, special treatment, or demanding favouritism (to one team or the other)? This abhorrent behaviour throws decorum and good manners out the window, particularly in the callous (leaked) way it was done(?). In the meantime, the global authorities of the game, hesitatingly ‘mildly’ warn this person of possible future action… may be taken to discipline this hooliganism and contempt? – Ladies & Gentlemen, in my not-so-modest opinion, rugby has lost its moral campus. In fact it didn’t loose it in 2021… The IRB sold it (with its soul) back in 1995, coincidentally in the same country where this ‘incongruent’ incident occurred.

Enrique TOPO Rodriguez

Founder and General Convener, ISSF (International Sports Sciences Forum)

Sydney 13/08/2021

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