Rugby Union: Chaos strikesmerger plans

Tim Glover finds rugby's first super club is already in turmoil

THE SO-CALLED merger between London Irish, Richmond and London Scottish rugby clubs ran into huge problems last week when a meeting of English First Division Rugby ended in disarray. "Most EFDR meetings are very stormy," Geoff Read, the London Irish chairman, admitted. "There's nothing unusual in that."

This one, however, reached such hurricane force that a "time out" had to be called to prevent several of the protagonists from coming to blows, and Tom Walkinshaw, the chairman, offered to resign.

EFDR want the number of clubs in the Premiership reduced from 14 to 12 and offered pounds 1.5m for the three London rivals to become one. More than a month after the announcement, nobody has received a penny. "Deals have been reneged on and deadlines missed," an insider said. "There are more creditors than anybody realised and the clubs now find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Had this meeting being held in another age there would have been pistols at dawn."

As it was there were heated exchanges between Read, Walkinshaw, Tony Tiarks, the former chairman of London Scottish and Nick de Scossa, the chief executive of Bristol, who bought a share of the Scottish last season but are now said to be disillusioned at the scale of the liabilities.

Richmond went into administration in March when Ashley Levett, their principal shareholder, suddenly decided to cut his losses, which have been estimated at pounds 8m. The club's administrators expected to receive a cheque from EFDR last week. They are still waiting. The crisis has been exacerbated by the non-appearance of funds (sponsorship money, TV revenue, etc) from Euro-pean Rugby Limited. There is now uncertainty over Europe, with several backers withdrawing support.

On paper the "merger", approved by the RFU, creates the "first of a new generation of super clubs". The Irish maintained that the squad would consist of players from all three clubs. Dick Best, the London Irish coach, has recruited two players from the Scottish but not one from Richmond. "We would like to, but they had either joined other clubs or we were outbid," Read said. "The new club will reflect the traditions of Richmond and London Scottish. This will probably be the best season in the history of the three clubs."

Ben Clarke, the Richmond captain and the last to leave the sinking ship, joined Bath recently. "If there had been a true merger I might have gone to London Irish," Clarke said, "but it was a takeover."

Read, who said the Richmond colours would be incorporated into the new jerseys, added: "We have been frustrated by the delay in the money being paid because people acting out of spite have been working as hard to undermine the deal as we have been working to secure the future.

"The politics of rugby gets in the way of the business of rugby and that's a major irritant. We have been promised the money and I'm confident we'll get it. If we don't there will be major ructions. The merger has happened in all but detail. The fixture list is out and Richmond and London Scottish are not on it."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent