Rugby Union: Pearce adamant

Bristol 35 Wakefield 19
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The Independent Online
FIRM commitments will be put in place on Wednesday for Bristol Rugby Ltd and London Scottish Rugby Club Ltd to amalgamate at the end of the season, according to the chairman of Bristol, Malcolm Pearce.

"There will be a meeting on Wednesday where it will be confirmed that we have a commitment to buy London Scottish at the end of the season," Pearce said before yesterday's Allied Dunbar Premiership Two match against Wakefield. "No money will change hands, and nothing will change this season because it will cause mayhem to the fixtures."

The Rugby Football Union gave Bristol seven days to confirm their plans on Friday but this news will come as a shock as few believed events had come so far so quickly. However, Pearce is adamant that his plans will go ahead. "This amalgamation was first mooted before the play-offs at the end of last season. Some members of the London Scottish board felt the stakes in the first division were too high. They didn't have a ground nor the supporters, and they said with our facilities we should be up.

"We have been put into a corner by the first division clubs, so this is something we have to do. The RFU have agreed for the first division clubs to come up with a new scheme that prevents Bristol from playing in the first division come what may. As far as I'm concerned if they do that there will be a thundering great legal battle, and they don't seem too good at winning those at the moment."

Even if the RFU now guarantee promotion to the winners of Premiership Two, Pearce is determined for the buy-out to go ahead. "The RFU have assured us that we would go up, but they didn't specify into what. It could be some Celtic league and we can't afford to be in that and the people of Bristol don't want to watch that. I can't let London Scottish down now because they really are quite keen to do this. They put out 15 teams and will still be a good rugby club, just not professional, but they will continue to enjoy playing as exiles and amateurs."

By taking over London Scottish, Pearce is in effect ensuring representation at the negotiations which decide next season's structure whether it be an English, Anglo-Welsh or British league. "We want to be at the table with voting rights when the decisions are being made this season," he said. And with many clubs in both divisions suffering financially, Pearce is acting now to prevent the self-interest of some Premiership One clubs from subverting the negotiations to protect their own positions and, more importantly, investments. Many of those present yesterday were convinced the big clubs would try to prevent Bristol's promotion, and so supported Pearce's actions. In truth, the Machiavellian politics of the Premiership team owners were not their primary concern, they just want to watch Bristol play top-level rugby.

Over 2,500 turned up to watch Bristol defeat Wakefield for the fourth time this season and keep on course for the second division title, and what should be promotion to the big time. But a take-over, if it is the only option, is fine by them.

Bristol: A Larkin; C Higgs, S Martin, J Pritchard, B Breeze; D Knox, G Baber; J Evans (S Evans, 56), D Tamati (J Evans, 15), P Lemoine, A Sharron, G Giles, J Brownrigg, M Gabey, M Bennett (C Evans, 63).

Wakefield: I Brehemy; P White, J Flint, S Dixon, B Shine; N Summers, C Simpson-Daniel; N Lloyd (D Lloyd, 66), K Brooking, R Latham, M Greenwood, A Hurdley, G Wilson (R Hughes, 84), C Elisara, M Sowerby (K Yates, 60).

Referee: J Barnard (Driffield).