‘Guernsey lost out on hosting Lions because of political infighting’

POLITICAL infighting has been blamed for Guernsey missing out on hosting the British & Irish Lions rugby squad this summer after it was confirmed that Jersey would be a location for a pre-tour training camp.

Guernsey Rugby Club chairman Charles McHugh watching the game between Guernsey Raiders v Tunbridge Wells. (Picture by Martin Gray, www.guernseysportphotography.com)
Guernsey Rugby Club chairman Charles McHugh watching the game between Guernsey Raiders v Tunbridge Wells. (Picture by Martin Gray, www.guernseysportphotography.com)

Raiders Rugby Club co-chairman Charles McHugh was disappointed by the news, which broke on Tuesday evening.

‘I think the negative wave of criticism about Warren Gatland’s visit has undoubtedly put the Lions off coming here,’ he said.

‘Why would they want to come and put themselves in the middle of a political argument?

'The negative reaction was not from people, 75% of people according to your Guernsey Press poll agreed with it. It was the political reaction that was pretty poor.’

Mr McHugh said the issue was bigger than rugby and bigger than sport.

‘It would have been an international event being hosted in our island, showcasing our facilities, showcasing what we can do, and I think the opportunity has been wasted because of political infighting.

‘Government should be applauded for making a first class pitch to try to get the Lions to come to the island but I do not think it was a communications issue or those that surrounded Warren Gatland and his quarantine that were the problem.

‘I think it’s the terrible negative response to this opportunity, which has now been wasted.’

In a huge sporting coup for Jersey, Lions head coach Warren Gatland confirmed on Tuesday that the squad would be heading to the island in mid-June before touring South Africa, while there was no mention of Guernsey.

At the Lions press conference Mr Gatland sung Jersey’s praises and said he was hugely impressed by the outstanding positivity he had received from the Jersey people and its government.

When Mr Gatland visited Guernsey over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend it sparked a polarised debate about whether he should have been allowed to skip the usual Covid-19 quarantine requirements and meet with local officials.

Mr McHugh hoped that Guernsey would learn lessons from the episode.

‘Congratulations to Jersey. They’ve got fantastic facilities, they’ve got all sorts of equipment there and a new £7.5m. gym, which is obviously a big factor.

‘Clearly we were in the running, Warren Gatland spent his whole Easter weekend coming here to assess our facilities and when I spoke to him he was very complimentary about the quality..

‘I think we definitely have to learn lessons. Sports tourism is a fantastic opportunity for Guernsey and we should be upping our game our considerably to attract major events here.

‘They will portray the island in the correct light, they will be good for business and all sorts of different aspects of Guernsey’s economy.’

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