Hall steps up threat of European Court

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Sir John Hall, the Newcastle owner, yesterday vowed there would be no surrender as English Professional Rugby Union Clubs step up their threat to take the battle with the Rugby Football Union over television contracts to the European Court. Sir John has been negotiating with the RFU on behalf of Epruc, who represent the top 24 clubs in England, and is ready to use European Community law as a precedent in the row.

The RFU still believe they have the right to negotiate on behalf of the clubs, but Sir John believes Epruc should conduct their own deals. "The RFU have been trying to take away our rights as clubs and abuse their monopoly power. We have the right to negotiate our own TV contracts. European law shows that they cannot restrain our economic activities."

The RFU president, John Richardson, responded: "Sir John is alleging restraint of trade and breach of broadcasting rights. But until the writs appear we won't know what is legally alleged. It depends on whether we have acted reasonably, and we think that we have."

Richardson is not scheduled to attend a proposed meeting tomorrow at which BSkyB TV have offered to mediate. Epruc have nominated Charles Levison, a lawyer who advises Queen's Park Rangers and Wasps, as their negotiator, but it is unclear who will act on behalf of the RFU.

Donald Kerr, the Epruc chairman, was involved in controversy of a different sort yesterday when he granted West Hartlepool's request to postpone their Courage League game at Wasps scheduled for tonight. West said they cannot field the necessary five experienced front-row players, including replacements, but Wasps announced they will demand to be awarded the two league points.

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