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Craig Chalmers deserves a second chance

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John Beattie | 11:21 UK time, Monday, 19 April 2010

I wish I were perfect, because I could criticise everyone knowing that I could never do anything wrong.

I don't know Craig Chalmers that well, but I think he deserves a chance. A punishment of some sort, or a warning, but to strip him of his current roles in rugby might just be a step too far.

Chalmers tried so hard to get in to see my band after the Melrose Sevens last weekend that he got very bad tempered after having too much to drink and spent the night in jail. Earlier, he and one of his players may or may not have behaved inappropriately toward at a referee.

If the object of our penal system is to reintegrate people, then the object of enquiries in rugby should be to warn them as to future conduct but always with the same aim.

The trouble with Chalmers is that he is something of an easy target. He is famously passionate and loud on the touchline and is the ultimate competitive animal. He was the same as a player.

Unfortunately for him that can be construed as arrogance and if you make a bit of noise, appear confident, and fall out with people then you are pretty sure to make enemies.

chalmers595.jpgThere won't be a shortage of people who would like to see Chalmers thrown out of the game or at least dealt with harshly.

Now, there are things that should mean a life ban from rugby, one of them being the use of drugs, like steroids, which give players an illegal advantage. I am also in favour of eye-gougers being banned for life.

But to act stupidly through drink? I am not sure that's the same, because we have all done the same. I hereby confess to acting stupidly when drunk in the past - to my shame.

Chalmers, though, is a "role model" and quite obviously a rugby ambassador as a current SRU employee. So were Matt Stevens, who admitted to cocaine use, and Lawrence Dallaglio who told undercover News of the World reporters that he dealt in the stuff a long time ago.

Chalmers is a pretty good coach I am told, and a member of the current Scotland Under-20 coaching team, which is preparing for a World Cup in Argentina.

In no way do I approve of abusing rugby officials who do the best job they can every time they take the pitch, and in no way do I approve of acting stupidly while drunk. I had, for instance, two alcoholic uncles both of whom died because of their addiction.

But everyone is walking a tightrope here in terms of what to do with Chalmers, who acted like many Scots do of an evening.

Like everyone in rugby I've been wondering what the logic is. And logic tells me that Craig has apologised and confessed as to it being his fault and he has talked of his embarrassment and that, perhaps, is all he can do at the moment.

Logic also says that the SRU and Melrose should warn him as to his conduct but keep him in the game.

I can't see any sense in taking a job away from a man who helped win us a Grand Slam all because of one day he is sure to regret for the rest of his life.

As I say, if I was perfect I might think differently. But I'm not.


  • Comment number 1.

    Sounds like good sense. Scotland is not so rich in quality coaches (or players) that it is not worth making an effort with someone who might fill that role.
    How about as penance make him do something about Edinburgh's defence, or would that be too severe a punishment.

  • Comment number 2.

    John I completely agree. If you cast your mind back over the last few months in European rugby you will see on and off the pitch antics that are absolutely shocking, Eye gouging and drunken joyrides on golf buggies to name a few. My opinion is that Craig should get a fine, warning and some SRU community service.

    A few off topic questions.

    What’s the name of your band and erm….what’s your views on No8’s kicking?


  • Comment number 3.

    Suspect it all started with the incorrectly, in my mind, disallowed try in the Melrose sevens in the Melrose vs Hamilton game. The replay, I believe, clearly showed the try was good and Craig was rightly incensed when it was disallowed. Things obviously spiralled from there on in. Not getting into the best band in the world gig obviously hurt as well BUT banning him from rugby for what a lot of people do every weekend seems OTT. Also, I think Scottish rugby needs some passion and it seems that Craig sometimes wears that on his sleeve. So be it but we're all human, we all make mistakes but we need to make sure the punishment is in line with the offence. Think there are far worse things happening on the pitch as JB has mentioned that we haven't sorted yet - drugs, eye gouging, professional diving etc. without resorting to off the pitch dilemmas. As the great Bill McClaren would say "A little bit of argy-bargy there."

  • Comment number 4.

    Give him a slap on the wrist and move on. Unless he has a real track record of doing this kind of stuff. I'm sure the embarrassment is punishment enough! I guess the SRU has to be seen to take this seriously but do they really need to come down hard?

    I'd be interested to hear more about the figures in Scottish rugby who would be happy to see him fall as implied in your blog John...

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree with your common sense approach.

    This is the first time Chalmers has been in trouble in a professional rugby context, but not the first time outside of that. He's apologised so the SRU should give him a strong warning and move on.

    I’d rather talk about what I thought was a fairly humdrum Sevens tournament [by the excellent standards of the previous 2 years].

    It would have helped if more of the multitude of hormonal teenagers in attendance had actually watched the games, instead of spilling beer on those of us who were, and got behind their team, as the support for Melrose [or sevens] was not nearly as vocal as in the previous two years.

    It would also have been terrific if the guest teams were a bit more varied with bigger clubs, bigger names and evenly matched teams when previous years included Leicester, Ulster, Waisale Serevi. I’d like to see teams like Ospreys, Northampton, Toulouse, London Scottish, even Edinburgh and Glasgow with Test stars.

    Instead we had an underwhelming Cambridge University team and two overpowering South African sides, University of Johannesburg and Hamilton, who were very strong and romped their ways to the final. Not to criticise the pursuit of excellence, but it was a bit boring.

    It would have been better for the event if the line judge has not cancelled the Melrose winning try in the quarters, because what little buzz there was in the crowd disappeared after that.

    Melrose should have been in the semis, and were robbed. I can understand Chalmers being furious. I know it’s just a game. I'm sure the line judge did his best, and mistakes happen, even horrible ones that ruin your year. But if I’d been the Melrose head coach and been knocked out of the quarters by a decision like that, I would be very bitter and with a little booze to fuel my fire, I wouldn’t completely blame Chalmers, if the line judge was found resting in a shallow grave up in the Eildon Hills. Not a jury in the land would convict him.

  • Comment number 6.

    JB. Going to give us a blog about your 'retirement' as coach at West?
    You've done a great job - promotion and stabilising the club in the top tier; and done it with a great blend of ex-pro experience - Bulloch, Perrett - and giving exciting youngsters their heads early in the 1st team, noticeably, McConnell and McAlpine. You've also played a significant part in bringing through young pro's like Richie Gray, Jon Welsh, Peter Horne, Roddy Grant who've all had time at West in the last few years. Well done! How do you the state of play in the Scottish Club game? What next for JB for direct involvement in the game?

  • Comment number 7.

    Donald Peddie - he applied for the Edinburgh job!

    Mako_D - the band is, in a very original way, called the John Beattie band. Graham Forbes of the incredible string band on bass, Brian McFie who toured with Marianne Faithful on guitar with me, Stuart Morrison on drums, and Scott Wallace and Andrea McNeill on vocals. Loud, loud, loud.

    Ken Mavor, agree needs a chance.

    Hookers_armpit - maybe I was wrong about people who would like to see him fall but I think anyone who is high profile and says what he thinks, like Craig, makes enemies.

    Moody Blue - I actually had no influence on Richie Gray, Jon Welsh, Peter Horne, Richie Vernon and Roddy Grant who were merely using us as stepping stones on an SRU path and were great players. I am really proud of what we all did at West as a club though especially in having very young players in our first fifteen. We need to blood all the young players we can to give them a taste of big time rugby. Young Murray McConnell was still at school, as was Robert Harley, when they first played for West.

    I had a day off yesterday, and went to Luss on Loch Lomond. Walked through the Glebe and along the beach. It was so, so magic. I love my country


  • Comment number 8.

    I have met with Craig Chalmers on several occasions. He is indeed a fiery character and gets pretty obnoxious and unpleasant when in the bar area. I’ve heard some really damming reports on his behaviour both as a player and a coach. There are no excuses for that and I think that he needs to be taught a serious lesson. Many think he is simply not a nice guy and beyond all levels of redemption.

    However, I like to see coaches losing it on the touchline. He is passionate for Scottish rugby and that’s something we can’t afford lose. Punishing him severely will potentially cause him to throw in the towel and quit the game. We need to help this guy behave more responsibly and sort his act out with intensive monitoring. Put him on a tight leash and show him the benefits of gentlemanly conduct, rather than just ruining his career.

  • Comment number 9.

    This is really difficult but the one thing that bothers me is that he verbally abused a match official and then got so drunk that he ended up in cells on a breach of the peace charge.

    Unfortunately at the moment there is too much abuse of referees and it is beginning to get a bit too personal! There has always been abuse but far more jokey rather than serious - Wheres your glasses - should have gone to specsavers etc.....

    However if one or other had happened would it have got the coverage that it has? I don't think so! So what worries me his punishment may end up be pumped up because of the press coverage. I hope not!

    Personally I would advocate a small ban from the touchline and a fine. This would impact him and hopefully teach him a lesson but don't take away from scottish rugby - from what I've heard - a talented and upcoming coach. Scotland needs them!(By the way - Thats coming from a Welshman).

    What I would also suggest is a 3 strikes rule to catch the repeat offenders - if somebody abuses a referee more than once then they should be punished severely. That way people may think before doing it.

    I was sent off for abusing a referee and rightly so. The club I played for took a very dim view of it and told me that if I wanted to carry on in the same vein I could go elsewhere (Not the words that were used) - I was banned from playing by the club for 6 weeks, the county RFU only banned me for 4!
    I'm still playing for that club!!! So I learnt my lesson.

  • Comment number 10.

    i know craig personally and as he has already said he regrets his actions on the day that has led to all this furore and i think that all the press that it's been getting is a bit OTT.having watched the sevens on tv down here in wales i can understand his frustrations at seeing his side go out of the tournament and he has probably let his frustration get the better of him .i don't condone what's happened but i would imagine he was upset for his players who were on the wrong end of a poor decision by the officials.. give him a slap on the wrists but let him carry on in the role's he has because he is a very good coach who has not reached his full potential.craig is a nice guy who is very passionate about rugby and he has plenty to offer scottish rugby at all levels of the game

  • Comment number 11.

    Being from Gala I find this whole thing with Chalmers hilarious...a bit of an over-reaction though but still hilarious!

  • Comment number 12.

    07015678 - Yes I agree, though I don't know how you go about it. The whole episode must have been embarrassing and perhaps enough of itself. I see the hearing has been delayed.

    Obanexile - here's hoping his passion can be tapped for the benefit of all.

    Been on the bike again today, lovely


  • Comment number 13.

    If this were an isolated incident involving a few shandies
    it would be easier to give him the slap on the wrists but from stories I have heard this isnt the case and he appears to be a serial offender. Whether a ban is the right thing for him or if somebody needs to get him some professional help as he appears to be a decent coach and clearly passionate about rugby but who can take a coach seriously who gets banged up for being drunk and disorderly ?

  • Comment number 14.

    2nd team - I haven't heard of other stories. I want to think of him as a great player and ambitious coach who should be helped. We shall all find out soon


  • Comment number 15.

    If, as has been hinted here, Chalmers does have previous for ungentlemanly behaviour when socialising, this affair should serve as a final wake-up call for him. He has obviously shown talent as a coach and has potential to go to a higher level. However, there will come a time when a player under his care will go off the rails after a beer or 10. Chalmers must set an example to his staff because any disciplinary measure he imposes will seem hollow to the player involved and may even be treated with contempt if Craig does not take stock of his own conduct right now. Otherwise, Scotland will lose out on a coaching talent and Chalmers will spend his life thinking "if only I hadn't done...." - which would be far worse than any night in a Hawick nick could be.

  • Comment number 16.

    They say one of the worst things you can do is meet your heroes. Finding out they're normal is a little disappointing. I don't live in Glasgow any more - I don't even live in Scotland but I can tell you that for all the things I miss about the most beautiful nation on earth I an delighted my kids are growing up away from the drink culture that prevails back home. I can also say that as nice a guy as CC was when I first met him sober things weren't so pretty after a few swallaes.

    Don't get me wrong - he's certainly not the worst and he's by no means alone but he has a profile that puts him more in the public eye than most. Are we telling our kids we're proud of Linford Christie? Is Marion Jones the role model we want? How about Tiger, the lion cheetah (couldn't resist).

    Has it become acceptable that the behaviour allegedly exhibited in this case (and in other cases witnessed) is somehow just part of the way things are? If so that's a sad indictment of the rest of us and what we deem as acceptable.

    The drink's a terrible thing for some folks - in CCs case the alleged behaviour isn't isolated. His employers (Who put him in a position where any frailty has more chance of exposure) have a higher duty of care to their employee to help manage it.

    In a broader sense we all need to stop and think about whether we'd feel right telling our sons and daughters that this is an acceptable way to conduct oneself.

  • Comment number 17.

    Soory to be out of the subject,
    "I had a day off yesterday, and went to Luss on Loch Lomond. Walked through the Glebe and along the beach. It was so, so magic. I love my country"
    I am French and support Scottish Rugby as I can, come every November for an International, and some games at Firhill.
    I take some folks from France with me, do not miss loch Lomond, Luss a year, and rowardennan or Balmaha another time.
    I breath deeply, look at the dramatic scenery/weather, and feel that I love Scotland.
    I was there before the game V Australia, an Australian friend with us, was pourring and a bit chilly, he had afreezy face, told him Scotland would win the game and it was.

  • Comment number 18.

    Hugues - ah, that was taken from my facebook entry. Luss is lovely on the banks of Loch Lomond and is now off the beaten track as it's not on the bypass.

  • Comment number 19.

    i may be wrong but i think a number of years ago, maybe 4, the edinburgh wing robertson was sent off for verbally attacking a ref and escaped with a one week ban. He was playing for melrose at the time.

    the following week he was in the scotland 7s team for an irb tournament.

    so if the sru allows a player to behave like this then represent scotland then surely craig should only be given a stern telling off.


  • Comment number 20.

    Wait a minute John! Let’s put his actions for Melrose 7's 2010 on the table. He verbally abused 2 match officials before the drunken episode at the function later in the day. Bring them together and it brings a totally different angle to the decision the SRU need to make. Sober! Craig along with a Melrose player verbally abused match officials! That alone is indefensible! When you ask players to show respect to a referee by calling him "Sir" when questioning a refereeing decision during play, then allow a torrid of abuse after the game it makes a mockery of the game of rugby and what Scottish rugby instills into the youth of today. Sack him and it returns Scottish rugby and Melrose 7’s back as a game for gentlemen. Give him a yellow card and people like Chalmers, Dillagio and the Gougers will still be seen as ambassadors of the game. “Legends” they are in rugby! Ambassadors in rugby they aren’t! If you have time to reflect after the heat of the game and you still choose to verbally abuse the referee, then in my book it’s the pre meditated and Craig should be sacked. Your rugby pundit days are over in my book if you condone their actions.

  • Comment number 21.

    Coco8ball and Chalmers red card

    I know, it was a difficult column to write as I understand the contrast in it. And I hate people having a go at officialdom. As I think we might find out (as I understand it) his actions were more to do with night time than referee time.

    The world is not black and white and and sometimes people are not all wrong

    Just back from the cup final where Ayr beat Melrose, and I thought the previous final, Lasswade against Greenock, was a better watch.


  • Comment number 22.

    JB, As a referee and someone with a bit of knowledge to what happened that night. I agree with some points of the discussions, however Mr Charmers regardless to his state of mind acted in a manner that brings the game of rugby into the realms of football mentality when it comes to referee abuse. I'm glad the media are aware of this because in the end it sends a clear picture to every player, coach and spectator that this is not acceptable. We are volenters and work very hard to 'try and get it right'. I don't want Mr Charmers to lose his job but I do want him to be punished.

  • Comment number 23.

    John, You would make a great MP. It will be interesting to hear the views of the referee's who were lambasted by Chalmers in front of players and comittee. We all know Mr Dalgetty of the Melrose comittee and his muted version of Craigs behavior. We also know that Mr Chalmers has already had the nod from the SRU he's only getting a smack on the back of the hand. Possibly why you have given your views on giving him a second chance !?

  • Comment number 24.

    Mark and Chalmersredcard

    All my instincts were to say his behaviour was terrible and deserved a red card. But then I thought back to my youth and remembered that I wasn't perfect either. I know referees are volunteers, and I was talking to my colleague Bill Johnston the commentator yesterday and he made the point that once we condone the abuse of referees in rugby then we don't have a game any more.

    Oh, and I would make a terrible MP and I have absolutely no inside track on whether Mr Chalmers has had a nod from the SRU in any direction.

    Any lambasting of a referee in any case is unacceptable and deserves to be punished. It does in this case too. I just feel Craig Chalmers is being lined up for a public hanging for getting drunk and spending a night in the cells when much better treatment is giving help.

    Off to write the next blog now, which will be on how Edinburgh shouldn't be too upset and not qualifying for the Magners semis as they have the smallest budget.



  • Comment number 25.

    I appreciate this blog was a very long time ago but I just read it now and wanted to say my 2p worth! I played with Craig Chalmers in the Kinsale 7's and he coached our 7's team for tournament or so. Now i'm not getting involved in politics of it all but from the tiny bit I know of him he seems a really top bloke who tries to have time for everyone!
    As has been said EVERYONE has done stupid things when they are drunk! Yes he is more in the limelight but i think should be given a second chance (which hopefully he has by now!) Anyway just thought i'd say from a neutral point of view he seemed a nice bloke, obviously knows his stuff and just enjoys a good time! Don't we all?


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