Last week saw the latest daft salvo from the loony Left. No, not the SNP or Labour, but left-wing academic Allyson Pollock, who launched an astonishing attack on the game of rugby.
Ban the game in schools, she proudly declared. Her reason? Children playing rugby is just too dangerous.
She claimed that one in eight will suffer an injury that means they miss matches or training sessions, a fact that has been disputed by many experts. Indeed, an article on the British Medical Journal website claims that data used by Professor Pollock in 2010 to issue a similar ban call had been “…inaccurately used as a springboard to launch an unwarranted attack on rugby”. The article cites a letter from the co-author of the report Dr Andrew Nicol to the Glasgow Herald (July 8, 2010).
But Professor Pollock goes further, claiming that the government and rugby authorities are failing to comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Writing in the Spectator last year she said: “This clearly states that governments ‘shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation… while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has care of the child’.”
So Professor Pollock thinks that playing rugby is tantamount to abuse.
Does this so-called expert even realise that young children, the sort she wants to ban from participating in the game, play touch-rugby? This means the kids wear belts with Velcro tags on them and are tackled when someone grabs a tag – so no contact required.
Why the opposition? Is it the Left’s perception of the game of rugby as being the preserve of public school boys?
The game’s popularity with women has increased massively in recent years with the number playing the game rising faster between 2013-14 than any previous year. At the same time, the RFU launched a campaign to increase the number of women and girls, currently 640 in some 330 clubs.
Thanks to Michael Gove, state schools are increasingly taking up the game and finding that their kids don’t only enjoy the sport, but are good at it.
And lets not forget the massive health benefits associated with sport and exercise. Obesity after all is one of the biggest killers in the UK. Lack of exercise and poor diet have a direct link to many of the country’s biggest killers, including heart disease and cancer. Coronary heart disease alone kills about 75,000 people a year, or about 200 a day.
There are other benefits too. Exercise and sport is good for our mental health. Last year mental health charity Mind launched a £2 million sports programme which aimed to help 75,000 suffering from mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
Paul Farmer, the chief executive of Mind, said that structured physical activity can play “a key role” in recovery.
“Mental ill health in itself can create significant obstacles that prevent people from taking up sport in the first place. Feelings of low self-confidence, exhaustion or fear of crowded spaces can seem insurmountable when facing a mental health problem.”
But no. The likes of Professor Pollock seem happier for children to risk growing up unhealthy and dying early than risk a few bumps and knocks through playing rugby.
The Left should be urging more people to get on their bikes, pick up a rugby ball and generally get off their backsides and be active, but they don’t.
Indeed it was not long ago that the Left wanted to ban competitive sport in schools, because it “created winners and losers”, and wanted failure to be renamed as “deferred success”.
It’s all nonsense and Professor Pollock’s crusade against rugby should be kicked into touch.
Rugby and other sports should be encouraged, not banned, because if we are to ever tackle the epidemic of obesity in the country we all need to get a lot more active.