London Welsh turn up the heat on RFU
May 25, 2012
Lyn Jones' London Welsh side are on course for the Championship title - but will they be promoted? © Getty Images
London Welsh chairman Bleddyn Phillips has increased the pressure on the Rugby Football Union by labelling their decision to block their possible promotion to the Premiership as "inequitable, unreasonable and unfair".
The Exiles were dealt the hammer blow on the eve of their 37-21 victory over Cornish Pirates in the first leg of the Championship final on Wednesday night that put them on course for the second tier title. The Richmond-based club had hoped that an aggregate victory following next week's return clash at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford would lead to their promotion to the top flight but as things stand they will not make the step up and Newcastle Falcons, who finished bottom of the Premiership, will be safe.
The RFU, who are yet to offer clarification of their decision, ruled that London Welsh's application failed on a number of counts with the primary issue the fact that the club did not hold primacy of tenure at the 12,500-capacity Kassam Stadium that they intend to make their home should they be promoted. However, London Welsh insist they have an agreement in place with Oxford United FC, the owners of the stadium, that would give them the freedom to meet the crucial 'minimum standards criteria'.
The Daily Telegraph reports that London Welsh will launch an appeal - despite the fact they are yet to receive the full details of the RFU's decision - and Phillips, also a partner with the law firm Clifford Chance, has also hinted that the club may take legal action. "If we win our match against the Cornish Pirates in Oxford next week, given the fact that we have a legally-binding agreement to use a top-notch stadium and that other clubs appear to be allowed to groundshare with other Football Association clubs, to my mind I would think it highly inequitable, unreasonable and unfair if we are told that we can't go up," Phillips told the newspaper.
"That would to my mind, and I think to other impartial observers, appear harsh. I would hope that if we can demonstrate that we have a legally-binding agreement to use a top rugby venue, that would be enough to persuade the RFU that they should allow us entry to the top flight.
"We have had a lot of support from neutral and impartial observers. Our best hope however is to persuade the RFU, if we win, that it is in the interests of the game and in the interests of the spirit of the game that London Welsh should be allowed to go up rather than have this legal argument, which nobody really wants, but if necessary we will follow up."
His sentiments were echoed by former Wales and British & Irish Lions international John Taylor, who is also the club's managing director. "This is a massive issue; it's about the professional game in England," said Taylor. "You cannot have a situation where the movement between the Premiership Rugby and the Championship is suddenly prohibited, it just doesn't work on any level. I don't really see how the RFU can be happy with that."
Coach Lyn Jones has also questioned the validity of the RFU decision. "The players feel it's a negative move for English rugby," Jones told The Guardian. "That channel to promotion needs to be open at all times for all sides. It's just a shame the union has complicated that. There's a big buzz in Oxford about the possibility of Premiership rugby being played there. We've had a huge amount of positive feedback regarding the potential of us at the Kassam. We're developing a new product and we just need to be supported in that regard. The type of rugby we're producing is good enough to go up another league."
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