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The Sporting family pays its respects

The sporting world has made it quite clear over the last two weeks how the Ukraine invasion should be seen, through its actions in the mass exclusion of Russia from all sport. There has been no more poignant sight than the former President of Ukraine Rugby taking up arms in defence of his country at the age of 83. The human tragedy unfolding has affected us all very deeply and hundreds of thousands in sporting arenas around the world have shown their solidarity and support of the Ukrainian people.

It was also a tough week for the passing of three sporting names of significance. I did not know Shane Warne well, but know many of his friends in sport, for example, Allan Lamb and Schalk Burger who have publicly stated their devastation at hearing the news. Our cricketing wines and spirits feature some of the greatest names in that sport – Botham, Willis (RIP), Anderson, Gooch, Vaughan – and their values are all reflected in the way Shane Warne lived his sporting life. We will remember him with great affection as a genius of his sport, accompanied by traditional flaws which made us love him even more. It has not just been cricket mourning his loss as he was such a universal figure.

Over the weekend Colin Herridge, Harlequins and RFU grandee, passed away at the age of 82. Colin was a great friend and adviser when I played for England as he was the liaison officer for the England team. After my very last game, I was being pursued for a random drugs test as my name was drawn out of the hat but I wasn’t really bothered. It was he who persuaded me to deliver my sample mid-way through the post-match double grand slam celebrations to avoid a scandal. I of course passed it! He also helped save the Quins when under threat from the Beckwiths. I found the new owner via a corporate connection but it was Colin who got the deal over the line. Colin was a huge supporter of Esher when I was there and always had sage words for us all. Colin, you will be missed.

Finally, Malcolm Pearce who also died over the weekend was the man off-field behind Bath’s success in the 80’s through his genuine guidance for players to find jobs and develop careers, to allow them and their families to stay in the area. He then did the same at Bristol, showing a truly remarkable love for the game during the amateur era. I got to know him well through business when down in Bath and he was a giant of a personality at a time when rugby was driven by other forces than financial. We have a lot to thank him for and that thrilling West Country derby at the weekend was just the tribute to pay him. Malcolm was a leading businessman in the West for 4 decades but his love of rugby was always a dominant part of his life.

They may be gone but they will not be forgotten. RIP

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