Rugby union: Bedford players vote against strike action

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The Independent Online
BEDFORD WILL honour their fixture with Cardiff tomorrow after the club's disgruntled players narrowly voted against taking strike action following non-payment of wages this week.

After a near two-hour session of meetings with the club's directors and among themselves, the Bedford players issued the following statement: "After meeting with the directors of Bedford Rugby and despite the fact that they have not been paid, the players have decided to participate in Saturday's game against Cardiff. By doing so they have expressed their commitment to Bedford Rugby and now only seek a similar commitment in return."

Paul Turner, the director of coaching, said that the players realised a strike could have brought the end of the club. Earlier, he had outlined the financial problems at Bedford. This was the second time in the past four months there had been problems with the players' monthly wage cheques.

He said: "The players asked for guarantees that money will be forthcoming in the future, that players' bonuses will be paid and that our tax difficulties will be sorted out."

The Bedford chief executive, Geoff Cooke, said: "Frank Warren has told [the players] they will be paid their August wages on 14 September. He is asking for a couple of weeks and bearing in mind how far he has brought the club, that is reasonable."

It was looking certain last night that there would be no immediate solution to the dispute between the top English clubs and the RFU. Just 24 hours before Cardiff and Bedford are due to kick off, as well as Swansea against West Hartlepool, on a Saturday scheduled for a full Allied Dunbar Premiership programme, the RFU's management board is no nearer a compromise.

Twickenham officials do not want Anglo-Welsh games to be played on Premiership weekends and will not be supplying match officials or providing insurance. The clubs insist that, by law, they cannot be prevented from staging the so-called friendlies but have indicated their willingness to compromise over their fixture arrangements so that the cross-border matches could not be associated with the Allied Dunbar Premiership.

But after a lengthy meeting at Twickenham yesterday the management board decided to put the options open to the RFU to a full council meeting next Friday. The only certainty is that the clubs will have to find qualified match officials.

Of the matches that do go ahead there is almost as much attention centred on the bench for Bath's tussle against Wasps at the Recreation Ground tomorrow. That is where Kevin Yates will be found, six months after being found guilty of biting London Scottish flanker Simon Fenn's ear in a Tetley's Bitter Cup match last January. The loose-head position is taken by the Scottish international prop, David Hilton.