Rowing: Royal Chester's late selection sparks protests

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The Independent Online

There has been fury at Royal Chester Rowing Club's game of brinkmanship with qualification rules at the National Rowing Championships of Great Britain here.

Royal Chester entered a junior men's quadruple sculling crew with the aim of representing England in mind, selectors from England, Scotland and Wales being present for next weekend's Home Countries match in Cork.

After entries closed, one of their men was picked for the British squad and another was ill, so they requested to make their entry a composite one with other clubs. This was refused, because although composites are allowed in the event, entries were closed. Chester then recruited two boys from the Marlow and Henley Rowing Clubs crew who won the Fawley Cup at Henley Royal Regatta. They conducted what the championships race committee chairman, John Friend, described as a "landing stage election", signing Adam Pennock and David Read as members and substituting them into the crew.

This produced a letter of protest to Rodney Beer, chairman of the regatta, from Tiffin School, Windsor Boys' School and Dulwich College, all of whom have honed crews all season and were hoping for England selection. They protested that the action "undermines the code of sponsorship". Officials of the Amateur Rowing Association, under whose rules the championships are run, were furious at Chester's action. Beer regretted the invidious position that his committee found themselves in, and said that if the association does not take action, the championships will introduce rules requiring proof of membership of all competitors and substitutes before entries close.

The bitterness continued on the water, when the Dulwich and Windsor Boys' composite did not show up to collect their silver medals after Chester won the race by two seconds. Tiffin were in third position until they caught a crab and were pipped for the bronze by Star Club. The Dulwich coach, Patrick White, said: "This means that a club can sign up anyone they like as a substitute. If Chester had not been in this race, Tiffin would have a medal."

Earlier in the day, Read came second to Chris Logan, of George Watson's College, in the junior sculls and was immediately selected for the England team. The Royal Chester quad were also selected to represent England in the Home Countries match.