Harlequins will contest this season’s Heineken Cup – but the ’Bloodgate’ fake injury scandal has not yet run its course.
European Rugby Cup directors say there is “no reason to interfere with the participation of Harlequins in the 2009/10 Heineken Cup.”
This is in the light of suspensions for ex-Quins rugby director Dean Richards (three years), former club physiotherapist Steph Brennan (two years) and current Quins wing Tom Williams (four months), plus a 300,000 euro fine meted out to the club by an independent ERC appeal committee on August 17.
But Quins are unlikely to have heard the last of a scandal orchestrated by former England number eight Richards.
Further damaging revelations were revealed yesterday, coinciding with an ERC board meeting, following publication of evidence given at the August appeal hearing in Glasgow.
In a statement, ERC said: “The board went on to express its concern with many of the issues and practices raised as part of the investigation and in the hearings, and their implications for the wider game.
“And in order to allow time for further consideration of the lengthy decisions published (yesterday) and the related issues and implications, the board will reconvene on Tuesday next, September 8.
“The board has therefore reserved the right to direct the ERC disciplinary officer to investigate issues raised during the process, which were not covered or dealt within the disciplinary hearings to date, with a view to considering any further misconduct complaints.”
The Rugby Football Union, meanwhile, are also keeping a close eye on developments, and their involvement in a disciplinary capacity at some stage cannot be ruled out.
A 99-page document – evidence of the appeal hearing published by ERC – lays bare Richards’ role in ordering Williams’ fake blood injury during a Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat against Leinster last season.
His plotting of the subsequent attempted cover-up also makes for grisly reading, while it took Richards until almost four months after the game before he made a full disclosure to Quins chief executive Mark Evans.
Williams, who is currently suspended until November, bit a fake blood capsule in an attempt to get injured Quins goalkicker Nick Evans back on the field and boot Leinster out of Europe.
But that proved only the start of a shocking episode that has rocked rugby union to its core.
And Richards, who resigned from his Quins post last month, can expect to find no hiding place, such is the magnitude of what he did.
“In one of the highest-profile matches in which the club had ever been involved, he was prepared to cheat Leinster out of a victory by bringing on a player at a crucial stage in the match when that player was not entitled to return to the field of play,” read part of the judgement.
“He was quite disinterested in the consideration that, by acting the way that he did, the club which deserved to win the match might be deprived of its victory.”
ERC disciplinary officer Roger O’Connor had appealed an original decision to find misconduct complaints against Richards and Brennan not proven.
The appeal committee continued: “Mr Richards was the directing mind and had central control over everything that happened in relation to the fabrication of the blood injury on the pitch, and the cover-up in the days after the match.
“The only aspect of the matter in which the appeal committee determined he did not have direct involvement was the alleged cutting of Mr Williams’ lip by Dr (Wendy) Chapman.
“It was Mr Richards who had instigated and directed arrangements which enabled the fabrication of blood injuries as, and when, that was convenient and would assist the club during matches.
“He had long since recruited Mr Brennan as his willing lieutenant in such activities, and in identifying Mr Williams as the person who would fake the blood injury he had selected a player who he thought could be suborned into cheating.
“His (Richards) was the dominant personality and influence on affairs.”