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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 April 2007, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
Richards blames RFU for boycott
By Simon Austin

Dean Richards
Richards won back-to-back Heineken Cups with Leicester
Harlequins boss Dean Richards is "dumbstruck" that the Rugby Football Union refuses to make concessions that could save next season's Heineken Cup.

English and French clubs have voted to boycott the competition.

Their main grievance is the RFU's refusal to hand over their shareholding in the competition to England's clubs.

Richards told BBC Sport: "I'm dumbstruck as to why things have gone this far. The clubs just need a share of what is rightfully theirs."

He added: "It's not an RFU competition. It's not the whole of English rugby that's involved, just the Premiership clubs.

"The clubs are happy to work with the union and are asking for a shareholding in the competition.

Dean Richards and Martin Johnson hold the Heineken Cup
The Heineken Cup is probably the world's best club competition

Dean Richards
Quins director of rugby

"It seems there is some sort of inability to move by certain people involved in the negotiations."

The French and Italian federations have agreed to cede shares in European Cup Ltd, the organisation that organises the Heineken Cup, to their clubs.

The Premiership clubs claim the RFU also agreed to do this in October 2006.

However, RFU chairman Martyn Thomas told BBC Sport this was "categorically untrue" and argues it would be irresponsible to allow this when the clubs could break away following the end of the "long-form agreement" in 2009.

Thomas does not want the Heineken Cup to be considered in isolation, but rather as part of a wider discussion about the structure of the sport and the management of elite players.

Richards, who won back-to-back Heineken Cups with Leicester in 2000/2001 and 2001/2002, is "deeply disappointed" that this could mean the postponement of next season's competition.

His Harlequins side are seventh in the Premiership with three league matches to go and the top six teams qualify for the Heineken Cup.

"The European Cup is probably the world's best club competition," Richards said.

"My players, like those of any other club, will obviously be very disappointed if the possibility to take part next year is taken away from them.


"It would also mean a huge drop in income for each club. It appears to me that the owners and clubs are willing to accept that and move on. It's a huge shame it's got to this."

The RFU is eager to gain greater control over its elite players so they are at their peak for international matches.

And Richards, who won 48 caps for England between 1982 and 1997, believes they are asking for too much.

"It seems to me the RFU wants control of the clubs and the players," he said. "They had that opportunity when the game went professional and weren't prepared to take it then.

"You can't come in knocking on the door now because there are so many livelihoods involved.

There are big businessmen there (at the RFU) who perhaps don't understand rugby

Dean Richards

"I'm not involved in the negotiations but I believe a lot of concessions have been made by the Premiership clubs.

"If we're giving them the players the week before internationals and blocking off the Six Nations, what more do they want?"

Richards also took a swipe at the men at the top of the RFU.

"Things need to move on and we need to take the personalities out," he said.

"There are big businessmen there (at the RFU) who perhaps don't understand rugby or have an empathy for the sport and I think that's where part of the problem lies.

"You need to have people who have empathy for the sport and are reasonable businessmen as well, not one or the other."

Dean Richards will be taking part in the Talisker Trek from 1-3 June to raise money for the Woodland Trust.

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