Blog by Sports Correspondent Matthias Kurth
Losing your prize asset is bad news for any business or operation. Full stop.
George Ford has fallen out of love with the club that has given him his springboard to fame and fortune. He has become dissatisfied since his father and former Head Coach, Mike, was dismissed and has evidently dug his heels in.
Equally, it's become apparent that Bath have neither succeeded in winning Ford junior around, nor selling him to a club of their preference. Instead, and in sign of increasing rugby player-power to rival football, Ford is on his way back to Leicester, which is absolutely the one place that Bath did not want him to go.
It undermines their ambition, weakens their ability to win, and strengthens a rival. No amount of financial compensation, nor gaining a similar player in part-exchange will mask that.
And with the greatest of respect to Freddie Burns, swapping him for Ford and Bath heralding that as a win-win situation is a bit like switching your child's must-have Christmas toy for a similar, but by-no-means-the-same replica. A model Buzz Aldrin instead of Buzz Lightyear.
Granted, there was a period of time just a few, short, years ago when Ford and Burns were being equally touted as England's next fly-half. Burns was at Gloucester then, while Ford struggled to establish himself at Leicester ahead of Toby Flood.
Their talent and potential was unquestionable, but fast forward to the present day and there's little doubt which of the two has fulfilled that promise. Ford is now firmly established as the incumbent England number 10 wile Burns can't even hold down the same position for Leicester, where he has been playing at full-back. The debate is over.
Bath can't and won't pull the wool over their supporters' eyes. Regardless, the Rec faithful will welcome Burns back to his home town and get right behind one of their own.
It will be very interesting, however, to see how those same supporters, and the club hierarchy, treat Ford when he returns from 6 Nations duty until the season's end. I can't imagine that he'll feel the love from either for what remains of the Premiership season.
Director of Rugby, Todd Blackadder, and the club's owner, Bruce Craig, would probably like to dump Ford to the bench - at best - and leave him there, but they'll need him to achieve their ambitions, so Ford will play. Apart from at what could be a crunch meeting with old foes Leicester at Twickenham in April, of course.
Who knows what the future holds thereafter? At 26, Burns could very well reignite his career back in the bosom of his native West Country, where it all first started. Blackadder will put an arm around him, massage his ego and stoke Burns' competitive fires. Statistics suggest that if Bath get an extra 20% out of Burns, consistently, they will be most contented.
There is an outside chance that Bath might have the last laugh in all of this but they're not laughing right now, no matter how they spin it.