A grassroots counter-revolution of the Rugby Football Union's member clubs yesterday saw the anti-establishment candidate for the RFU's executive chairmanship elected by a landslide at a shambolic and sensational special meeting in Birmingham which broke up with even the seemingly dead issue of amateurism still to be resolved.
It is by no means certain that another special meeting will not vote to turn English backs on the rest of the rugby world. The RFU would have no option but to secede from the International Board if the bulk of clubs - nearly all of whom will remain amateur anyway - vote as they appeared to feel at the International Convention Centre last night.
Remarkably, Cliff Brittle's trouncing of the RFU committee's nominee, the IB representative John Jeavons-Fellows, by 647 votes to 332 was only part of the humiliation. Another special general meeting must be convened within six weeks at which the very principle of abandoning amateurism in according with the IB's changed regulations will be specifically voted on.
This is an extraordinarily perilous path, not least because the England team who begin the Five Nations' Championship in France this Saturday have already been handsomely professionalised and all the leading clubs are now putting the new dispensation into place ready for next season.
The sense of this meeting, attended by more than 800 delegates also wielding a pile of proxy votes which took 70 minutes to cast, was patently in favour of retaining amateurism even though the same people had already voted acceptance of the changed IB regulations and various consequent amendments in RFU regulations. But most dramatic of all, if the next meeting voted to retain amateurism, the RFU would effectively have no alternative but the …