Le­in­ster’s lack of at­ten­tion to de­tail leaves a lot to be

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SPORT | RUGBY - BREN­DAN FAN­NING

AT the press con­fer­ence af­ter Le­in­ster’s win over Cardiff last week­end, Leo Cullen quickly turned his thoughts to South Africa. The squad would fly out on the Tues­day, he said. There was great ex­cite­ment. He was up for it him­self as, de­spite a long and suc­cess­ful rugby ca­reer, he had never been to South Africa. Pack yisser bags lads.

Lucky for Leo there has been no fall­ing out be­tween Ire­land and South Africa on the im­mi­gra­tion front, so ac­cess for him is not an is­sue. Not so lucky for Leo the same is not the case be­tween New Zealand and South Africa. So be­fore clear­ing im­mi­gra­tion in Joburg last week al­ready he was mi­nus his cap­tain, Isa Nacewa — or Visa Nacewa as we saw him re­ferred to — and Jami­son Gib­son-Park.

Im­me­di­ately it brought back mem­o­ries of Felipe Con­tepomi hav­ing to sit out the pool stages of the Heineken Cup, in 2003/’04. Le­in­ster had for­got­ten to sort the right pa­per­work for him. Their ap­peal was re­jected. The then man­ager Ken Ging was handed the can and in fair­ness to him, car­ried it off with some dig­nity.

In­ter­est­ingly there are no vol­un­teers to make that walk this time, de­spite se­nior man­age­ment hav­ing swooped suc­cess­fully to carry off the PR Clus­ter­fuck 2017 award.

First, the ad­min­is­tra­tive er­ror. We sus­pect the av­er­age fam­ily go­ing out­side the EU on hol­i­day would at least ask the ques­tion about visas. But it’s con­ceiv­able they might for­get. It’s rea­son­able, how­ever, to ex­pect higher stan­dards of a pro­fes­sional sports or­gan­i­sa­tion. They get paid well to elim­i­nate the kind of hu­man er­rors the rest of us make as a mat­ter of course.

PRO14 claim they made all the clubs aware of the visa is­sues in­volved and went so far as to in­clude a tem­plate on how to ap­ply. They are un­sure ex­actly when these doc­u­ments were sent out, ex­actly to whom, and how many were con­firmed as re­ceived. Even if they were all re­ceived it’s un­clear how many of them were read.

Given the haste with which the tour­na­ment was put to­gether there was a bliz­zard of pa­per­work in the air. Oth­ers, like the Ospreys who head off in 10 days, man­aged to read the im­por­tant bits. Clearly Le­in­ster didn’t.

Sec­ond was their re­ac­tion to the mis­take. PR folks will tell you not to open your gob un­til you know what you’re talk­ing about. In Le­in­ster­land they put to­gether a hat-trick of own goals: they is­sued a state­ment say­ing the lads were in limbo, but gave no info on how they would get through the gates; worse again, with stag­ger­ing ar­ro­gance they ef­fec­tively told their stake­hold­ers to bug­ger off, that there would be no fur­ther com­ment; then when Guy Easterby, head of rugby op­er­a­tions, came out with his hands up, he never both­ered to ac­knowl­edge those pri­mary stake­hold­ers: the fans and the spon­sors.

For a man viewed as a po­ten­tial Le­in­ster CEO of the fu­ture, this was less than a mas­ter class. Be­tween Easterby and the se­nior man­age­ment team led by ex­ist­ing CEO Mick Daw­son, Le­in­ster demon­strated a poor grasp of the ba­sics.

It’s been sug­gested that the ab­sence from the tour of Le­in­ster’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager was a flaw. Maybe if PRO14 been more gen­er­ous in the num­ber of per­son­nel they were pre­pared to fund — they bankroll a set num­ber for these South African trips — a com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sional would have gone. Per­haps if Le­in­ster put a higher store on their me­dia re­la­tions they would have funded the travel of such a per­son them­selves. In any case, com­mu­ni­ca­tion with home wasn’t the is­sue so the cri­sis could have been man­aged. Rather it was all about at­ten­tion to de­tail, be­fore and af­ter the event.

There was a bliz­zard of pa­per­work

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