Championship side Bristol Rugby have set in motion a dangerous turn of events that could have wider impacts on the current rugby transfer market.
Bristol Director of Rugby Andy Robinson has announced that departing players Scott Baldwin and Andy Short will play no further part in his sides race for promotion. The news comes after the pair announced they are set to leave Bristol at the end of the season and are expected to join up with fellow promotion rivals Worcester Warriors.
Whilst Baldwin is set to join up with London Irish for the rest of the season, Short looks unlikely to play any competitive rugby before his move to Worcester, and won’t even be allowed to train with the Bristol squad over the next few months.
It’s obviously understandable that Bristol will have concerns about players split loyalties when so much is at stake, however to publicly announce a player has been completely frozen out not only leaves the club looking petty and vindictive, but sets a dangerous precedent for future player transfers.
Take Jamie Gibson for example, he’s set to move from Leicester Tigers to their arch rivals Northampton Saints at the end of the season. Whilst you can imagine Richard Cockerill isn’t too pleased about this, it looks likely Gibson will still play an important part in the Tigers bid for the play-offs this season.
The problem is that by acting in the way Bristol have players may be unwilling to announce a move until the seasons end for fear of being ostracised so publicly. This may then leave clubs in the lurch as they have a raft of players departing, however they’re not made officially aware of their decision until post-season leaving them short of time to recruit new talent.
Either rugby needs to adopt a football style transfer system where player moves can only happen during specific periods each season, or the governing bodies need to come down heavily on Bristol’s petulant behaviour.