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Richards hit with three-year ban
Scrum.com
August 18, 2009

Former Harlequins boss Dean Richards has been hit with a three-year ban from coaching by the ERC for his role in the 'Blood-gate' controversy - but Tom Williams has had his suspension reduced.

Richards, who resigned as Quins boss last week, was found to have played an integral role in Williams faking a blood injury in the closing stages of the club's Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat by Leinster in April.

The former England international has now been banned from coaching a side involved in any ERC-organised tournament. However, the ERC is also set to request that the ban be extended worldwide.

Richards had originally been cleared of any wrongdoing in the affair but he admitted his guilt during a 14-hour independent committee meeting in Glasgow on Monday. Quins physio Steph Brennan has been hit with a two-year ban but Dr Wendy Chapman escaped any punishment.

Richards refused to comment on whether faking blood injuries was part of an concerted club strategy.

"I have no knowledge of that. I wasn't party to anything going on there. I'm not aware that it did happen. I know that he had a cut but I don't know how it came about because I wasn't in the room."

Of the Williams fake blood affair, Richards added, "I took full responsibility for it. It was a farcical situation, it really was. It didn't pan out particularly well on the day. Everybody looked at it and thought, 'That's unreal', which is what I thought on the touchline as well."

Richards had not decided last night whether to appeal the decision to the likes of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"I'm a little bit shocked, a little bit surprised by it all. It seems a little bit disproportionate but, at the end of the day, I'll reflect on it overnight and obviously see where my thoughts are in the morning."

Williams, meanwhile, has seen his suspension reduced from 12 months to four after providing the ERC panel with evidence implicating both Richards and Brennan. The winger will now be able to resume his playing career on November 20.

Williams had been found to have faked a cut mouth in order to allow team mate Nick Evans to return to the action in the dying minutes of Quins' defeat by Leinster at the Stoop on April 12. A late drop-goal attempt was engineered for Evans but the New Zealand fly-half was struggling with a knee injury and pulled it wide.

Reading a statement, he said, "I sincerely regret the role that I've played in this unacceptable incident that has done so much damage to the image of rugby union.

"I let down my team-mates and the club's fans, and I'll have to live with those actions for the rest of my career. I hope that, as a result of this episode, no player or employee will ever be put in such a compromised position, and if they are then they will always tell the truth, as I had wish I had done from the outset."

At the original hearing in July, Quins were fined £215,000, of which 50% was suspended for two years, over the affair but only Williams picked up a suspension.

However, a second hearing was arranged after the ERC's own disciplinary officer, Roger O'Connor, contested those rulings. As well as the bans for Richards and Brennan, the club fine has been increased to £259,000, to be paid in full.

A statement on the club's website read, "Whilst the club are pleased that Tom Williams' ban has been reduced, we feel this is a very significant penalty in terms of fine.

"We will now continue with our internal review into all aspects of the business to ensure that we have the most stringent compliance and robust policies and processes in place throughout the club and work towards rebuilding our reputation on and off the field.

"We hope that the club can now draw a line under what has been a difficult few months, learn from it and move on."

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