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London Welsh claim ruling is 'fundamentally flawed'
LONDON Welsh have branded the ruling that saw them docked five points and fined £15,000 as “fundamentally flawed”.
The Aviva Premiership rugby outfit, who play their home games at Oxford’s Kassam Stadium, were last night found guilty of fielding an ineligible player – scrum half Tyson Keats.
A further five-point deduction is suspended until the end of next season and will only be activated if the club breach regulations again during that period.
Welsh immediately announced they will appeal the decision, which leaves them rooted to the foot of the table, with only five games to save themselves from relegation after just one season in the top flight.
Keats, who the Exiles stressed was not at fault in any way, appeared ten times in Premiership games while not holding effective registration with the Rugby Football Union.
London Welsh’s former rugby manager, Mike Scott, remains the subject of a separate RFU disciplinary hearing relating to the registration of the same player.
Explaining their decision, the Panel of Inquiry said Keats applied for an ancestry visa when he arrived in the UK in July 2012 as his maternal grandfather was born in England. But his application was apparently rejected and then team manager Mike Scott falsified a player registration form by stating Keats was English and was born in Christchurch. The matter was referred to the RFU by the club once they discovered the background to the issue. In a statement, Welsh said: “The club was unknowingly the victim of one individual’s fraudulent conduct, and it was London Welsh which discovered the fraud and brought it to the attention of the RFU.
“The panel, however, has punished London Welsh on the basis that it is to blame for what that individual has done.”
Chief executive Tony Copsey said: “London Welsh are hugely disappointed and shocked by the ruling made by the RFU hearings committee, which we believe is extremely harsh under the circumstances.
“It is our belief the ruling is fundamentally flawed, and the club will definitely be appealing the decision.”
He added: “It’s very clear this individual (Scott) has gone way out of his way to deceive both the RFU and the club, and it’s from the club’s internal investigation that unearthed the fraud in the first place and brought this to the RFU’s attention. We feel very harshly done by.”
Panel chairman Jeremy Summers said: “This was an extraordinary case, and one that it is hoped will never be repeated.
“The sanction imposed was structured to reflect the seriousness of the matter, which included conduct that was dealt with by the police, but also to import a rugby-based proportionality to the overall position that took into account the wider interests of the game.”
Summers was joined on the panel by Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty and Peter Budge.
Welsh are now two points adrift at the bottom of the table and have just five games of the season remaining – away to Gloucester, Bath and London Irish – and at home against Northampton and Worcester.
Their next fixture is at Gloucester on March 23.