February is nearly over and the RBS Six Nations is once again on our screens. Across the length and bread of Great Britain, Ireland, France and Italy, Rugby Union fans are either glued to their televisions or braving the chill winds and drizzle at the Aviva Stadium, Stade de France, Murrayfield, the newly renamed Principality Stadium, the Stadio Olimpico in Rome or the home of Rugby Union – Twickenham.
And they should make the most of it as, according to rumours coming out of Brussels, this could well be the last tournament to be called ‘The Six Nations’ or even to include the same six countries.
Ivana Sukyuoff, EU Minister for Approved Recreational Activities, has been quoted as saying, “The whole thing is a total misnomer! We don’t have ‘nations’ any more in the European State – we have Regions. If, and I repeat if, this so-called ‘contest’ is allowed to continue, it will have to fall in line with EU directives concerning approved recreational activities and as things stand now, it certainly doesn’t!”
The problem is exemplified by the fact that no less than five of the previous national teams, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France all belong to EU Region West whilst the sixth, Italy, belongs to EU Region South.
“Theoretically,” admits Ms Sukyuoff, “we could have a contest called the ‘Two Regions’, West versus South, but this would be profoundly unfair on the other two Regions, who don’t have a rugby tradition as such. As per EU rules, that everybody is totally equal (except for our Brussels bureaucrats who are more equal than other equal citizens), the championship should be a game in which all regions are therefore all equally skilled in.
Furthermore,” she added, “all nationalistic elements of the current game need to be removed. National Anthems promote divisive nationalistic feelings and should be replaced with one anthem, our lovely EU anthem, An die Freude. Spectacles such as the people of the West Region formally known as Wales singing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau with it’s first line – The land of my fathers is dear unto me – is provocatively jingoistic and can only promote unnecessary and unhelpful nationalism.
The EU has acted before to clamp down on activities or institutions perceived as promoting undue nationalistic feelings and so lessening the proper attitude that we are all EU Citizens. The English have faced a ban on Morris Dancing, as well as Dad’s Army and even, quite possibly, their famous Red Arrows whilst generally, across the length and breadth of Great Britain, Greenwich Mean Time is due to be phased out.
There are other aspects of Rugby Union that the EU find distasteful as well. “Those muddy, sweaty men, grappling with each other in ‘scrums, rucks and mauls’,” gasped Ms Sukyuoff, eyes glazing over slightly. “I’m sure there’s Health & Safety issues there. Either the sport needs to be made non-contact or appropriate body armour should be worn as in American Football. The posts form the letter H which can be seen as promoting the sub-region once known as Hungary to the detriment of other Regions. The line-out is offensive and discriminatory against people of a lesser stature and the ball is the wrong shape – in the EU all balls must be round, by law!”
Also, in accordance with EU decimal rules, matches will in future be played for 100, rather than 80 minutes, split into two 50 minutes ‘demis’. The current rules on injury time / clock stopping will remain unchanged however.
Strangely, and seemingly at odds with the statements on nationalism, whatever shape, Rugby Union, and its ball takes in 2017, one thing will change for certain. The referee, touch judges and television match official will all be required to repeat each call and instruction twice, once in the language of the home team and once in the language of the away team. As Ms Sukyuoff concluded, “the days of an EU speaking one common language (probably German) are some way off so until then we must make some allowances.”
Sehr gut! Gelbe Karte! Zum sin bin, Ms Sukyuoff!!!