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Row over dates puts Siam game in jeopardy

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THE historic Siam Cup game – for the second oldest prize in rugby union – is under threat next year.

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The 2020 match is facing cancellation as the Jersey Reds and Guernsey Raiders cannot agree on a date for the historic clash.

The Siam Cup has been a key event in the Channel Islands’ calendar since the 1920s attracting thousands of fans to the annual contest.

But, after many weeks of wrangling, the clubs are still struggling to finalise plans for the one of rugby’s most historic fixtures and the Sarnians believe the whole event is in doubt.

The 2020 edition is set to mark the centenary of the cup being presented to Guernsey but a clash of fixtures is causing concern, with Jersey Reds not happy about Guernsey’s plan to stage the inter-island festival at Footes Lane – the home ground of Guernsey Raiders – on Saturday 2 May.

Jersey Reds – who play in English rugby’s second tier – have prior league commitments with the final game of their season against Bedford Blues already set for that date. The recent Rugby World Cup has meant that the Championship season has been pushed back and will not finish until May.

And the alternative dates suggested by the Reds are considered either too early or too late in the season by their Guernsey counterparts. Jersey officials are thought to have suggested staging the game in March or mid-May.

Other dates offered of Sunday 3 May or Liberation Day have been deemed unfeasible by Guernsey for logistical and financial reasons.

The deadlock means that the fixture is in danger of being axed next year.

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Raiders chairman Charles McHugh is not giving up on finding a solution but feels frustrated with Jersey’s stance at a time when the clubs are also at odds on who should be eligible to play in the big game.

He said: ‘It would be a sad state of affairs, if because of a desire to field a few full-time professional players, that Jersey Reds were not wanting to play and 100 years of history and sporting traditions that surround the Siam Cup were to be broken.

‘Not even World War Two cancelled the spirit of the Siam Cup. There was a “Siam Cup” match played for in Laufen Camp Oflag VII-C a prisoner of war camp in Bavaria during 1944, where Guernsey beat Jersey 6-5.

‘This trophy has a rich and resilient history that has been preserved through the generations. The trophy even survived the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands without being looted and melted down.

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‘Let’s hope that sportsmanship and good sense will prevail and a mutually acceptable date can be found and agreed.’

As well as the main event between the two first teams, Siam Cup day also features the ladies’ Siam game, the veterans’ Nash Cup match and the Fallaize 2nd XV clash.

In total, there are some 184 different players due to take part across the four festival matches and the atmosphere and build-up are one of the highlights of the season for both players and fans.

According to Raiders’ sponsorship director Chris Gnapp, Santander International – Jersey Reds’ stadium sponsor and a key commercial supporter of the Siam – could even reconsider its backing if all four fixtures do not take place on the same day.

Paul Wright, Raiders’ financial director, said: ‘The Siam Cup is a special event but it is required to be a commercial success. There are 400 pre-match corporate diners to cater for and last year when the event was held in Jersey on the day the hospitality, food and beverage sales were estimated to be circa £25,000.’

The Jersey Reds board, who have a pre-planned meeting today, are now likely to place this issue at the forefront of their agenda.

Jason Fox

By Jason Fox
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