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Page last updated at 09:01 GMT, Sunday, 6 September 2009 10:01 UK

Richards ban savage, says lawyer

Former Quins boss Dean Richards
Richards' reputation has been badly damaged by the 'bloodgate' affair

The lawyer representing Dean Richards has described the three-year ban given to the former Harlequins rugby director as "savage" and "excessive".

Richards was banned from coaching worldwide for orchestrating the infamous fake blood substitution in the Heineken Cup tie against Leinster.

Lawyer Mark Gay insists the reason the ruse was so obvious was because Quins and Richards were not used to doing it.

He added that Richards is "reflecting" on his next course of action.

Richards, a former England number eight who led Leicester to four successive Premiership titles and two Heineken Cup crowns, was severely punished for the scandal which has cast a shadow over the sport.

European Rugby Cup, the organisers of the Heineken Cup, imposed the ban after ruling that Richards "was the directing mind and had central control over everything that happened".

ERC were particularly scathing of the way Richards tried to cover up the incident after the game but Gay argues that the three-year suspension was too harsh.

"Dean made a full and complete confession to the committee of ERC," he added on BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme.

"He has taken full responsibility for what has happened. I really do think the committee should have taken account of that.

606: DEBATE

"Of course the cover-up really hurts you more than the offence itself but even in the context of that it's a savage ban to impose, a ban which could in all intents and purposes have been a life ban on a person like Dean who has given his life to the game.

"To my mind it's a very savage sanction, disproportionate, and really is one which in all conscience, ERC should not have imposed."

And Gay says the Richards offence pales in comparison to the incident which led to South Africa flanker Schalk Burger being banned for eye-gouging British and Irish Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald in June.

"I think it is excessive in the context. You have to look at what the offence was," added Gay.

"What the player was involved with was feigning injury and to my mind, feigning injury is less serious than causing injury and Schalk Burger got eight weeks for gouging.

"So that's the core offence; then you go beyond that which is to say there is an element of premeditation in the capsule. But looking just at that, it was a joke attempt to try to cheat; almost comic in retrospect."

The incident which led to Richards' downfall occurred when Quins winger Tom Williams was ordered to feign injury in the Heineken Cup quarter-final on 12 April by chewing a fake blood capsule to allow goal-kicker Nick Evans to return to the field.

Williams later had his lip cut in an attempt to make the injury appear genuine.

Richards and physio Steph Brennan were initially cleared of any wrongdoing at a disciplinary hearing in July but were heavily punished by a subsequent appeals committee in August.

Three years is a very long period in elite sport not to be at the top level

Dean Richards' lawyer Mark Gay

The appeal heard that Richards had been involved in four similar incidents.

Asked why Williams and Quins officials seemed to act so blatantly against Leinster, Gay said: "Because they were unused to doing so.

"If you had been professional about cheating you wouldn't have had legs wobbling, you wouldn't have had the interaction of a bubbly drink with fake blood which produced something that looked fairly purple, you wouldn't have the winking," he said.

"If it had been a really concerted, professional attempt to cheat, it probably would not have been before ERC."

Richards has not yet decided whether to appeal against the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and Gay believes his absence will be a big loss to the game.

"There is no right of appeal against the decision of the ERC appeal committee," said Gay. "There is always the right of recourse to the courts but Dean is sitting back and reflecting upon his options now.

"I would hope Dean would come back because he is an honest soul and has given his heart and soul to the game.

"He is a great, great coach. Three years is a very long period in elite sport not to be at the top level and in elite sport you have to be at the top level to compete."



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see also
'Head-butt' compounds Quins woes
05 Sep 09 |  Harlequins
Wasps 26-15 Harlequins
05 Sep 09 |  Rugby Union
Best support for Richards return
03 Sep 09 |  Rugby Union
Clubs introduce blood injury code
03 Sep 09 |  English
Harlequins avoid ban from Europe
02 Sep 09 |  Harlequins
Richards hit by damning judgement
02 Sep 09 |  Harlequins
Harlequins chairman stands down
28 Aug 09 |  Harlequins
Cheating not widespread - Worsley
31 Aug 09 |  Harlequins
Quins could face further sanction
27 Aug 09 |  Harlequins
Richards banned for three years
17 Aug 09 |  Harlequins
Quins sorry for fake injury saga
12 Aug 09 |  Harlequins
Richards resigns Harlequins post
08 Aug 09 |  Harlequins
Quins stunned by fake injury fine
20 Jul 09 |  Harlequins
Harlequins 5-6 Leinster
12 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union


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FROM OTHER SPORT SITES
View London Bloodgate ban is savage, claims Richards' lawyer - 17 hrs ago
Observer 'Savage' ban could finish off Richards - 22 hrs ago
Mirror.co.uk Dean Richards' ban is too severe for an 'honest soul' - 25 hrs ago
SLAM! Sports Disgraced rugby coach may challenge 3-year suspension - 31 hrs ago
Taiwan News Online Richards may challenge 'disproportionate' ban - 44 hrs ago


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