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Page last updated at 16:01 GMT, Wednesday, 2 September 2009 17:01 UK

Harlequins avoid ban from Europe

Tom Williams leaves the pitch in the Heienken Cup quarter-final against Leinster
Williams used a blood capsule to fake a blood injury against Leinster

Harlequins have escaped being thrown out of the Heineken Cup following last season's fake blood scandal.

The board of organisers European Rugby Cup (ERC) said it approved of the bans and fines already handed out.

On Wednesday the board added that it saw "no reason to interfere with the participation of Harlequins in the 2009-10 Heineken Cup".

But it will meet again next week to consider the possibility of further action against individuals at Quins.

Harlequins qualified for this season's tournament courtesy of finishing second in last season's Guinness Premiership.

But their participation had been the subject of much speculation after the unfolding of the 'bloodgate' scandal in recent weeks.

The scandal started when replacement Tom Williams used a fake blood capsule to engineer a blood substitution in last season's quarter-final against Leinster.

606: DEBATE

After biting on the capsule he was helped from the field, enabling fly-half Nick Evans to return to the match in an ultimately fruitless attempt to kick a winning drop-goal for the Londoners.

After an initial cover-up Williams came clean and saw an original year-long ban reduced to four months, while director of rugby Dean Richards was banned for three years and physio Steph Brennan for two.

Harlequins were fined £259,000 but will be relieved to have escaped being thrown out of the Heineken Cup, which is the premier European competition in club rugby union and a valuable source of income for clubs that take part in it.

BBC Sport understands that the club feared losing about £1.5m in revenues if it had been thrown out of this season's tournament.

On Wednesday the ERC board met to consider the incident and the disciplinary process that had arisen from it.

The board said it "fully accepted the decisions and sanctions" and added that it believed "the robust nature of the independent disciplinary system utilised for ERC tournaments has provided a fair and professional disciplinary process for all parties involved".

But the board added it was concerned by many issues that had been raised during the disciplinary process and "their implications for the wider game".

In order to discuss these issues, the board will meet again on 8 September.

It may then ask the ERC disciplinary officer to look into both matters that have already been raised as well as issues not so far dealt with, "with a view to considering any further misconduct complaints".

Meanwhile, the board has decided to follow the Guinness Premiership and introduce 23-man squads in an attempt to reduce the number of matches blighted by uncontested scrums.

That means that each club's 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 side uses up all its front-row players during a game and is forced to go to uncontested scrums, it will have to continue playing with 14 men.



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see also
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 must move forward - Easter
13 Aug 09 |  Harlequins
Quins sorry for fake injury saga
12 Aug 09 |  Harlequins
Richards resigns Harlequins post
08 Aug 09 |  Harlequins
Quins judgement 'strange' - Moore
21 Jul 09 |  Harlequins
Quins stunned by fake injury fine
20 Jul 09 |  Harlequins
Quins substitution under scrutiny
17 Apr 09 |  Harlequins
Harlequins 5-6 Leinster
12 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union


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