RFU hit back over Thomas treatment
October 10, 2011
Martyn Thomas is a man under pressure © Getty Images
The Rugby Football Union has blasted proposals for a Special General Meeting in the wake of the Blackett report insisting it has already put in place a "robust process" to determine whether disciplinary action is necessary.
Leicestershire club Market Bosworth RFC called for the meeting to vote on a motion that CEO Martyn Thomas should resign from all executive and non-executive roles. Thomas is currently the acting chief executive of the RFU, England's representative on the International Rugby Board, the Six Nations committee and chairman of Rugby World Cup 2015. For an SGM to be called, Market Bosworth's proposal requires the signatures of 100 of the RFU's member clubs.
Thomas, who stepped down as RFU chairman at a council meeting in July, has already survived two votes of no confidence but fresh calls for a SGM have put his future in doubt. Despite calls for Thomas to resign and be temporarily replaced by former chief executive Francis Baron, the RFU has responded angrily to the proposal.
RFU president Willie Wildash is carrying out an internal review of the Blackett report - which criticised Thomas' conduct and recommended he and the majority of the board stand down - to assess whether disciplinary proceedings are the right course of action to take. Wildash has appointed independent QC Charles Flint to lead the process and drafted in lawyer Felicity Reeve to help determine whether any board members, including Thomas, should face a misconduct charge.
"I am very disappointed to hear of the proposal to call an SGM accompanied by the allegations that no action is taking place as a result of the Blackett Report," said Wildash.
"Despite the fact I have been in New Zealand I have already taken action and put in place a robust process that is enabling information obtained from various persons, by the Blackett Review Panel, to be used to facilitate the gathering of evidence needed to determine whether or not disciplinary proceedings are appropriate. This process was necessary because all the information was provided on a strictly anonymous basis to the Panel and indeed many of those who provided testimony have no record of exactly what they are alleged to have said.
"The process will protect the confidentiality of those persons who provided information and enable them to provide evidence that can be properly tested to enable a decision to be taken as to whether disciplinary proceedings are appropriate. Until this process has been completed disciplinary proceedings cannot be commenced and, of course, if any person is charged they must be given the opportunity to defend themselves.
"To call an SGM on the basis of a report containing allegations made anonymously and before the process has been completed to determine whether those allegations can be substantiated before anyone has been given the opportunity of defending themselves against any resulting charges, is surely not the way that rugby people should behave because it directly conflicts with our concept of fair play and justice."
Chairman Paul Murphy echoed Wildash's views. He said: "It is obviously very disappointing that some Council members have seen fit to propose an SGM with the sole purpose of removing Martyn Thomas from office. There can be no hiding away from the fact that those Council members have put a personal matter above the greater good of the RFU and failed to recognise their collective responsibility that Martyn has won two votes of no confidence by a sizeable margin.
"The proposed SGM should in no way overshadow the excellent work that is being achieved by the RFU, in particular the new executive team and the loyal staff at Twickenham who have expressed their full support for Martyn."
Thomas, who is in New Zealand at the World Cup along with Wildash and Murphy, insisted: "I remain committed in my role as chief executive until we have appointed my successor when I shall readily hand over and focus on my other roles as an International Rugby Board representative and Chairman of England Rugby 2015.
"I would also like to express my gratitude for all the calls of support I have received from staff at Twickenham and council colleagues."
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