Belfast Telegraph

In professional sport, honour is not for sale

Biting Back: Where the debate really gets started

By Niall Crozier

Saturday's long haul to Limerick and back to watch Ulster beat Munster at Thomond Park was an eye-opener.

That the hosts are not the force they were has been a widely-held belief for some time, this despite having led the way for much of the PRO12 race.

This is the fifth season of post-league-proper play-offs and Munster have made it to the semi-finals in all but one of those five campaigns. If that constitutes failure, exactly what measuring stick is being used?

Munster's 'problem'? Their post-boom gravy train hit the buffers. Hard.

It's axiomatic that there can only be one winner. So does that mean Munster – and all others – are failures? If so, that ruthlessness will be the death of professional sport.

Switching codes, it was the late Bill Shankly who decreed: "If you're first, you're first. If you're second, you are nothing."

As a lifelong Liverpool supporter, it pains me to disagree with Shanks. But I must, because if he was right, professional sport in general cannot survive; it is a matter of 'when' not 'if' it kills itself.

As of now, titles continue to be bought, witness Manchester City's latest 'success', though I would point to a £140m overspend in the past two seasons, this in flagrant contravention of UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules.

A £50m fine awaits. Trouble is, £50m is nothing to City. So yes, honours can be bought where money is meaningless. But honour? No, sorry; that is not for sale.

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