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Rugby

Harlequins Cheat Cheating Ban

Harlequins have escaped being booted out of the European Cup this season.

European Rugby Cup (ERC) said today that they approved of the fines and bans already handed out, adding that they saw no reason to interfere with the participation of the club in the 2009/10 European Cup.

It is understood that the club feared it would lose revenues totalling £1.5m sterling if they were banned from playing in Europe.

The ERC will meet (again)) next week to consider the possibility of further punishments against certain individuals at Quins, who qualify for this season’s EC as a result of finishing second in last season’s English Premiership table.

Harlequins’ boss Dean Richards was slapped with a worldwide three year ban for his part in the “bloodgate” scandal which has rocked rugby union.  The scandal began when replacement Tom Williams used a fake blood capsule to allow a blood substitution in last season’s EC quarter final against eventual champions Leinster.

Williams was led from the field with blood streaming from his mouth after biting down on the capsule, a move which allowed drop-goal specialist Nick Evans back onto the field. Williams also allowed the team doctor to cut his lip in the dressing room so the injury would look genuine.

Evans did have one drop goal attempt in the final tense few minutes but dragged his kick badly wide and Leinster deservedly held out to win 6-5.

Quins were fined £260,000 for their part in the scandal, and in a damning indictment, the ERC pointed the finger of blame firmly at Richards, a former  England and Lions international.

The ERC said today: Richards was the directing mind and had central control over everything that happened in relation to the fabrication of the blood injury on the pitch, and the cover-up in the days after the match.

The only aspect of the matter in which the appeal committee determined he did not have direct involvement was the alleged cutting of Williams’s lip by Dr (Wendy) Chapman.

It was Mr Richards who had instigated and directed arrangements which enabled the fabrication of blood injuries as and when that was convenient and would assist the club during matches.

In one of the highest profile matches in which the club had ever been involved, he was prepared to try to cheat Leinster out of a victory by bringing on a player at a crucial stage in the match when that player was not entitled to return to the field of play.

He was quite disinterested in the consideration that by acting the way he did the club which deserved to win the match might be deprived of its victory.

He had long since recruited (physiotherapist Steph) Brennan as his willing lieutenant in such activities, and in identifying Mr Williams as the person who would fake the blood injury he had selected a player who he thought could be suborned into cheating.

His (Richards) was the dominant personality and influence on affairs.

He instigated the cover-up to the extent of requiring Mr Brennan to fabricate statements and then refining the fabrications to ensure that all statements were consistent.

We considered the primary interest of Mr Richards was in preventing his own role in events being discovered.

Meanwhile, the ERC have decided to follow the English Premiership’s example and bring in 23-man squads in an attempt to reduce the number of matches blighted by uncontested scrums.

Clubs’ match day squad must now contain a minimum of three specialist front-row players, two props and a hooker on an eight man bench.  If a team uses up all its front-row players and is forced to to go uncontested scrums, it will have to continue playing with 14 men.