A huge row has broken out in European rugby over the decision of the English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish Rugby Unions to pay tribute to the forthcoming Royal Wedding.
At a special press conference in London yesterday it was announced that there are plans for all UK and Irish rugby to have a special royal programme of events at games this weekend. The unions are insisting that all games honour the importance of the occasion by including speeches, patriotic songs and flag waving.
Furthermore, 50% of all gate receipts and merchandise sales in European rugby this weekend will be donated to a special Royal Wedding Fund. Only the French Rugby Federation has opted out of the arrangements although it seems they were under severe pressure to come into line.
The plans have been received with an equal mixture of pleasure and resentment within the rugby community and several member clubs of the RFU, WRU and IRFU have called for an Extraordinary General Meeting to address the matter. However, with so little time left before the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton it seems unlikely the measures will be overturned at this late stage. Instead legal action and High Court writs seem imminent.
The plans are believed to have originated among several senior members of the Home Union committees who have been serving since before the advent of professionalism in 1995. It seems they were anxious to show the game's 'traditional spirit' and their individual support for the heir to the throne.
The main features of the weekend's activities include:
* Half of all proceeds from Magners League and Heineken Cup games to go directly to a special Royal Wedding Celebration Fund.
* English National anthem to be sung prior to Newport Gwent Dragons v Cardiff Blues on Friday (as a mark of thanks for the match being given permission to go ahead on the same day as the wedding). Players expected to sing along, regardless of nationality.
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