The good old loophole

Seems the word “loophole” is becoming as much a part of rugby jargon as the words “lineout”, “who, me ref?” and “Aussies can’t scrum”.

After a protracted and unpleasant legal wrangle in which former Lion Jaque Fourie wriggled his way out of his contract owing to a magical “loophole”, there’s been a rush by players to “loophole” themselves off to different provinces.

And there we were thinking that it’s only taxpayers who look for loopholes.

Following the Fourie tussle, and quicker than you can bite a fake-blood capsule and wink at the camera, there was talk that two of the Lions’ better players, Louis Ludik and Willem Alberts, have their eyes on a move to the coast, and are searching for this miraculous loophole in their contracts.

And, this week reports emerged that Chiliboy Ralepelle, who’s worried about just where he stands in the Bulls’ pecking order now that Gary Botha has returned home, was also using the services of a professional loophole finder (sometimes referred to as a lawyer) so that he could make a move to Lions. The Lions have, however, subsequently stated that they aren’t pursuing Chiliboy’s services.

(You’ve got to feel for long-suffering Lions fans.
Their team has been so crap for so long it’s depressing, they’re struggling to keep hold of the few good players they have, and then they’re hit with the news that Chiliboy may be heading their way. And no, this isn’t a judgement on Chiliboy’s abilities—he’s injured all the time, so no one’s really sure how good he is.)

But all the talk of loopholes, that magical get-out-of-jail (or Lions) card, simplifies what are intense, exhaustive and uncomfortable negotiations, where interests are balanced and expensive and expansive legal minds do battle for the cause of their clients; a protracted process where a player seeks to get out of his contract, and the union seeks to safeguard its asset.

It’s amazing how these loopholes only spring up when a player is offered a more attractive option.

If players had their own way, contracts would include a provision along the following lines:

  • Section 2.3: Loophole
    The player shall be allowed to leave the employ of the union if:

    There is more money to be made elsewhere;

    There is a chance that he/she can play for a union better than the Lions;

    There is a chance that he/she can live at the coast.

  • Moving between unions has become commonplace, even though we may romanticise about the rose-tinted amateur notion of loyalty (You can be sure the notion of loyalty would be meaningless to a Lions fan if a Frans Steyn, for example, made a move to the Big Smoke). If a player really wants to leave a union, more often than not he does.

    If the unions really want to close these loopholes, perhaps they should call in old Pravin—after all, he spent a long time at Sars trying to do just that.