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Thursday, January 05, 2006


Other Unions / Teams: Clubs angered by RFU plan to give money to charity
By David Hands, Rugby Correspondent

PEACE and goodwill remain in short supply where the Guinness Premiership clubs and the RFU are concerned. The union’s attempt this week to short-circuit the dispute between the two sides, which has been so damaging to the domestic game, has been rejected by Premier Rugby Ltd (PRL) with a degree of disdain.

In addition, Leicester will be writing a letter of complaint to the RFU over the connection made between the commercial disagreement and two charities (one the union’s own organisation, Spire, established more than ten years ago, and the other the trust fund for Matt Hampson, the young Leicester prop who broke his neck in a training accident last year).

The union’s suggestion was that half the money withheld from those clubs who played their 2005 Lions at the start of this season, in contravention of an agreed rest period, should be paid to the four clubs involved (Leicester, Sale Sharks, London Wasps and Bath). The other half would go to the charities. “Frankly that antagonised us, certainly it antagonised Leicester,” Mark McCafferty, the PRL chief executive, said.

The union, McCafferty said, had been badly advised by introducing an unrelated element to the agenda. “It’s a commercial dispute that we have here. It has nothing to do with obligations towards injured players,” he said. “To use the clubs’ money in that way, we consider, is tasteless.”

Leicester have already raised some £200,000 towards Hampson’s fund, for which a £40,000 cheque was presented to the prop’s parents at half-time during Monday’s game against Saracens, which was attended by Hampson even though he remains on a ventilator. “Anything that helps Matt is fantastic and there was great emotion at Welford Road during the presentation,” Peter Tom, the Leicester chairman, said, but his club do not believe that their efforts should become entwined with a political squabble.

Both the club and Premier Rugby believe that the only way forward is to reconstitute England Rugby Ltd (ERL), the body specifically designed to run the elite game by including representatives from both sides, which has fallen into abeyance since the departure of John Rennocks, the independent chairman, last year.

McCafferty’s hope is that, even if a short-term agreement has to be cobbled together over release dates for England players to cover this season, a longer settlement can be put in place that will give Andy Robinson, the England head coach, the preparation time he needs in 2006-07 for a successful defence of the World Cup.

“But the RFU are now asking for more than the current elite player scheme allows for, even though the High Court has ordered that both parties comply with the current agreement,” McCafferty said. He claims that the union wants to discount from the agreement the weekend when players were rested before the autumn internationals in November to leave more training days available before and during the RBS Six Nations Championship.

Although it appears that the principle of releasing England players for the Powergen Cup semi-finals on March 4, which involve Bath, Leicester and Wasps along with Llanelli Scarlets, has been conceded, McCafferty said that England sought to schedule training days during the week leading up to the semi-finals, with disruption to the three clubs. At that stage, England will have played three of their five internationals but still face a crucial away game with France on March 12, followed by a home game with Ireland six days later.

It is ironic that, in the same week, the RFU and Premier Rugby are due in the High Court to see if their differences can be settled by a legal process neither side wants. “ERL has to meet,” McCafferty said, “and there is an original date in the diary this month. We are happy to go back to the Long-Form Agreement (which the RFU has repudiated, alleging the clubs to be in breach) but that has to go alongside the proper function of ERL. That can’t be left ambiguous.

“It’s about a partnership; that is the only way through this.”
man these guys are like whining bitches.

i would love to have had stm here though
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