Let Ian McKinley Play On Irish Soil


Ian McKinley is a professional Irish rugby player, competing at the most elite levels of the sport. A former Leinster outhalf, he is currently prevented from playing in Ireland because he needs to wear protective goggles during games. 

A trial of the goggles was sanctioned by World Rugby in January 2014, but the IRFU has declined to participate, effectively blocking rugby players that require the goggles from playing in Ireland.

Twenty-four rugby unions internationally are participating in the goggles trial, including seven of the top 10 ranked nations in the world.  Only the Irish, English and French unions have declined to participate.

Since the goggles trial began 22 months ago, in all the multiple age-grades, contexts and standards of testing, not one injury or incident has been reported to World Rugby.

Ian was called up to the Zebre squad in September 2015, having been signed to Viadana, one of the biggest sides in the Italian league, since August 2014.  He was due to play for Zebre against Connacht in Galway on 16th October 2015, but received a letter from the IRFU in advance, saying they could not permit him to play if he wore protective goggles.  The IRFU said they had sought World Rugby’s advice, and were told a player from a participating union may not wear goggles while playing in the jurisdiction of a union that is not participating in the trial.

Ian believes his rights under the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights are being breached because of the position adopted by the IRFU and World Rugby.

Story of a Remarkable Comeback

Ian himself played a central role in developing the pioneering goggles, after losing the sight in his left eye during a rugby match in 2010.  At the time, he was playing professional rugby with Leinster, and had 11 caps for Ireland at under-19 and under-20 age-levels.  He lost his eye when a team-mate accidentally put his stud in it during a ruck, causing a full rupture.  He was determined to stay playing despite his injury, and continued with Leinster for a further 18 months.  However, during that time, his good eye was deliberately gouged during two All-Ireland League matches.  Ian realised he could be left blind if he continued to play without protective eyewear.  So he made the excruciating decision to quit the game he loved at the age of 21.

He subsequently worked with designers at NCAD to find a solution that would enable him to continue playing rugby.  The protective goggles that were developed as a result are now being manufactured by Italian firm Raleri and used by 525 players worldwide.

Public Campaign

Ian is looking for two key actions as a result of this campaign:

  1. For the IRFU to immediately sign up to the goggles trial, so that rugby players can wear protective goggles while playing in Ireland.
  2. For World Rugby to give blanket permission for players to wear protective goggles, so that all domestic unions will have to permit the wearing of goggles.

“In the longer term, I am hoping that this campaign will demonstrate that it is possible to resume a sports career at the highest levels, despite having suffered a serious injury,” says Ian.  “And I’m also hoping that this will show those who are concerned about safety standards in rugby that there are workable solutions to ensure players at all levels can safely enjoy the game.”

You can find out more about Ian at: www.facebook.com/ianmckinleyrugby or by following his campaign on Twitter @LetIanPlay / @ianmck7.  The hashtag for this campaign is #LetIanPlay.

To sign the petition click here

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