“It’s too warm to touch / A simulated rush / but how can you tell / When it’s fake blood?” asked Mission Of Burma’s Peter Prescott in 2006, blissfuly unaware that just a few years later, officials at England’s RFU would be asking the same question. Harlequins’ Tom Williams, coach Dean Richard and team physio Steven Brenner received bans of 4 months, 3 years and 2 years respectively for their role in a bogus-facial-injury scandal being that’s been dubbed “Bloodgate”. Careful not to openly gloat, the Guardian’s Paul Wilson opined, “as if rugby union commentators and their ilk have never, ever, in any way used Premier League football as convenient shorthand for Sodom and Gomorrah rolled into one and anything else that might be wrong with the world.”
Not even when Dean Richards admitted he knew the game was up when he saw Tom Williams (above) walking towards him with fake blood frothing from his mouth and “legs like Bruce Grobbelaar“ did it occur for a moment that rugby union’s raid on the make-up cupboard had anything to do with football. Grobbelaar did not actually cheat in the 1984 European Cup final, after all. He showed uncommon and unpremeditated inventiveness in taking gamesmanship (and showmanship) as far as it would go, and rather than assuming that Richards was implying footballers were also guilty of skulduggery on occasions it seemed far more likely he was expressing admiration for a sportsman who managed to gain a crucial advantage without breaking any rules.
Imperfect as footballers may be, they can at least con referees without resorting to smuggling extraneous substances on to the pitch. Please do not write in, that was a joke. Less amusing is watching the old double standard come into play, as rugby attempts to retreat into a boys will be boys and rules will be bent mentality. Footballers who dive or feign injury are never characterised as pranksters or chancers. They are notorious cheats. Conmen. Overpaid impostors who insult their audiences and their glorious heritage.