Heineken turn off tap in Wales

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The Independent Online

HEINEKEN'S six-year sponsorship of the Welsh League will not continue when the present contract expires at the end of this season. The Dutch lager company have poured pounds 6m into the top five divisions since the 1990- 91 season, but cannot agree a new deal with the Welsh Rugby Union.

However, Heineken, who are expected to continue their sponsorship of the fledgling European Cup, will put pounds 300,000 towards Wales's international matches over the next three seasons

A few hours before Heineken's announcement, Edward Jones resigned as secretary of the Welsh Rugby Union after only 27 months in the job. In his letter of resignation to the WRU chairman, Vernon Pugh, Jones, who will step down by 30 June, said: "The significant changes made by the International Rugby Football Board have substantially altered the nature and the requirements of my post as secretary. It is no longer the job which I took on.

"A very substantial part of my life has been devoted to rugby union and ideally I would wish to seek another post or some other capacity, which would afford me the opportunity to retain strong links with the game."

Jones, 55, had a five-year contract when he became the WRU's ninth secretary in October 1993.

They say that setbacks come in threes, so it was no surprise that Wales had even more bad news yesterday when their second row Derwyn Jones pulled out of a squad session after suffering a back spasm. The 6ft 10in Cardiff forward is, however, expected to be fit for Tuesday night's game against Italy in Cardiff.

Another international lock in the wars yesterday was Ireland's Neil Francis who took no part in a squad session at Lansdowne Road because of a chest infection. But Ireland, who face Scotland in Dublin on Saturday, had better news when the Lansdowne fly-half Eric Elwood, who injured an ankle during last Saturday's victory over the United States in Atlanta, proved his fitness. Meanwhile, the Blackrock College fly-half Alan McGowan has withdrawn as a replacement for Ireland A who meet Scotland A on Friday night because of flu. His place on the bench has gone to Leicester's Niall Malone. In Birmingham today, the Rugby Football Union's top brass are bracing themselves for the result of the election between Staffordshire's Cliff Brittle and the North Midlands' John Jeavons- Fellows, the official nominee, for the chairmanship of the new executive committee.

Brittle has earned massive support from the most powerful counties such as Middlesex, Yorkshire and Gloucestershire.

Brittle is seen as the outsider on the side of junior clubs, who feel that professionalism was accepted too readily by Twickenham and that the top clubs are getting preferential treatment.

Jeavons-Fellows, who is closely identified with the move to professionalism as one of England's representatives on the IRFB, has "the full confidence of the executive and full committees to lead the Union in these challenging times".

If Brittle wins, the RFU executive will have as its chairman a man they do not want. The meeting will then be asked to rubber-stamp the decision for the game to go open even though a majority may vote to retain the word "amateur" in the RFU's bylaws.