Rugby Union: Clubs prove a point in court

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The Independent Online
THE Rugby Football Union's provocative attempt to secure immunity from the Restrictive Trade Practices Act has been rejected by the High Court, much to the relief of England's professional clubs. The decision is likely drastically to weaken the governing body's authority over the Premiership teams, who are now in a stronger position to challenge the RFU's virtual monopoly on broadcasting rights and fight any attempt to buy international players out of their club contracts.

English First Division Rugby, the top clubs' umbrella organisation, joined forces with the Office of Fair Trading to challenge the RFU's initiative and force it to register all agreements with the OFT. "All we want to establish is that the RFU is not above the law of the land," said Peter Wheeler, the former England hooker and current Leicester chief executive.

Yesterday, Doug Ash, the new chief executive of both EFDR and the English Rugby Partnership, the joint RFU-EFDR administrative body, said: "We are not surprised at the outcome because the RFU had no grounds. We believe this situation should be very open and the Restrictive Practices Court is there to ensure that agreements can be scrutinised."

The Welsh Rugby Union has come out in support of the under-fire European Rugby Cup Ltd and its attempts to ensure the future of both the European Cup and Conference competitions.

While the top 12 English clubs have announced their intention to boycott the European Cup next season, the WRU has given its backing to both events.

"The Welsh Rugby Union is fully supportive of European Rugby Cup Ltd in its organisation of European rugby competitions," the WRU chairman, Glanmor Griffiths, said. "The Union will totally support both European Cup and Conference events and will endeavour to promote a structured season that will be seen to be to the benefit of all interested parties."