Rugby Union: Harlequins hit the Riverside jackpot

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The Independent Online
Everyone knew Harlequins were well-connected but yesterday's announcement that one of the country's biggest leisure groups were to put up pounds 3m to buy a 40 per cent stake in the patrician London club was a breathtaking financial stroke.

Already Quins have a pounds 1.5m sponsorship from an electronics company and, with Riverside Sports' investment being intended primarily for the redevelopment of the Stoop Memorial Ground, it would be no surprise if further backing was forthcoming to add to the Harlequins squad and make them the best- paid in the rugby business.

Gareth Llewellyn, already committed to joining Quins, should prepare himself for a culture shock. The down-to-earth Wales lock, who gave a performance of supreme calibre in leading Neath to their Heineken League triumph against Pontypridd on Tuesday, is about to rub shoulders with two Old Harrovians who are among the wealthiest men in the country.

Riverside's Peter and John Beckwith, 51 and 49, are reckoned to be worth around pounds 82m, placing them 180th in the Sunday Times' list of Britain's richest 500 for 1996. Among their interests is a 50 per cent stake in the Chelsea Harbour Club, a gymnasium frequented by Will Carling, a distinguished Harlequin, and others.

John Beckwith is to join the new Harlequin board as one of two Riverside representatives. Roger Looker, the club chairman, will also be the company's chairman with Colin Herridge, most recently the England team's media-liaison officer, and Donald Kerr, who has headed the clubs' delegation in its fraught discussions with the Rugby Football Union, as directors.

Riverside's involvement is dependent on Harlequin FC's becoming a limited company, a proposal already approved by members and subject to final ratification in a vote on 28 May. The first phase of the subsequent Stoop development will be a new 4,000-seater east stand.

The England lock Garath Archer has been banned from playing rugby for failing to appear before a Gloucestershire disciplinary committee last night. The suspension will stay in force until the county committee consider two yellow card offences from league games while Archer - who is now at Newcastle - was at Bristol.

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