The East Terrace
Lions hit hard by economic climate
May 22, 2009
Lions tour manager Gerald Davies been forced into a range of cost-cutting measures ahead of the trip to South Africa © Getty Images
The British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa has had to be drastically reorganised due to the effects of the global recession.
In a hastily organised press conference at Heathrow Airport Lions' manager Gerald Davies told reporters that the tour budget has had to be cut by more than 70% and, as a result, 'huge changes' will have to be made.
"Due to the current economic situation the Four Home Unions Committee undertook a review of our financial resources and sponsorship income," said the former Wales and Lions' wing, "It was decided that it would be prudent to cut down on everything relating to this tour. Everything from costs to equipment to manpower is being streamlined."
The most shocking of the cutbacks is the news that only 22 players will now be taken on the tour as opposed to the original named squad of 37. Furthermore, the only coach who will now tour is Ian McGeechan. All the other coaches such as Warren Gatland, Shaun Edwards, Robert Howley and Graham Rowntree are no longer accompanying the tour party unless they pay their own way and travel as unpaid volunteers.
Davies explained that it had not yet been decided which 15 players will be left out when the new squad is announced. "The reduced squad will be based, like everything else, on economic factors. We are asking each of the original 37 man squad to fill in a skills and cost questionnaire.
"Players who have a wide range of non-playing skills - such as the ability to wash and iron clothes, take training sessions and drive buses - will be favoured when it comes to our final touring party."
Davies stressed that the measures are a 'necessary evil' or the tour would not be viable. "We hope fans will understand why we had to make these decisions. It shouldn't be seen in a negative light. We think it is a good chance for rugby to reconnect with its amateur spirit and for the players to realise that this game should be about fun and friendship.
"Also, if members of the press were able to donate any spare change in the boxes at the back of the room when they leave I would be most grateful."
Other major changes proposed by the Four Home Unions are:
+ Players asked to bring their own national training gear as they will not be supplied with free Lions' equipment to train in.
James Stafford is editor of The East Terrace (www.theeastterrace.com) - an offside view of life in the rugby world