Despite the Falklands Legislative Assembly and many Islanders voicing their displeasure at the previous activities of an Argentine group of rugby players in the Falklands, Rugby Sin Fronteras (Rugby without Frontiers) are planning a third visit on April 13, this year.
In a letter sent to the group by Legislative Assembly Member Roger Edwards, the rugby players who during their last visit caused upset and controversy in the Islands by offering children sweets and other treats to entice them to play rugby while being photographed were advised that access to school property was restricted because of this.
The letter noted the date of the planned visit, saying “the timing is a matter for you, but please be aware the playing field at the school will not be available for any activity from the end of March until the spring due to the need for essential maintenance. In any event it is unlikely that we would have been able to make it available to your organisation following the unfortunate events during the 2009 visit.
“The Falkland Islands places very high importance on the protection and safety of children, and all people working with children must receive prior clearance through extensive police checks. The inducement of children to participate in activities without parental consent and through the provision of gifts and sweets is simply not acceptable, and access to school property is restricted on this basis.”
Despite their efforts during their previous visits, Rugby without Frontiers has failed to incite the population to take up the sport. There is not even a rugby field in the town, and many Islanders feel that if their intention is genuinely to take the sport to areas where young players could benefit from coaching and training, then it is a shame their funding is being used up on a country like the Falklands that has little interest in the sport.
Chairman of the Falkland Islands Football League Andrew Newman noted there had not been a game of rugby played in the Falklands since the last visit in 2011 and questioned the motive behind the visits.
“The last visit was politicised despite their assurances it would not be,” he said, adding, “and I don’t like the way they exploited the children’s naivety.”
Mr Edwards said that while the organisation claims to have no political affiliation that was not the impression left behind in the general population after their last visit, or from the subsequent use of images from the Falklands used on their website.
Rugby without Frontiers uses an image of their group hugging at the Argentine Cemetery at Darwin to illustrate the 2011 visit to the Falklands on their website. There is not a rugby ball in sight.
“We are a free and open society, and are happy to encourage the improvement of capability and experience through sport, which has a large following here. However we are not at all keen to facilitate activities that are designed to introduce or re-inforce political views or messages which are likely to be offensive to the community,” MLA Edwards told the Argentine rugby players, and added: “Relations between our two countries are not good at present, principally due to harassment and intimidation of the population through attempted trade sanctions. Any activities that can reduce tensions are to be welcomed; any activities that might create further antipathy should be avoided”.
By Sharon Jaffray - SeAledPR - Stanley