Rugby Union: President condemns cash deals

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The Independent Online
STILL more drastic action to halt English rugby's transfer merry-go-round - and the illicit inducements which oil its wheels - was threatened yesterday if the new 120-day qualification period when players either kick their heels or play on for their old club does not have the required effect.

The Rugby Football Union's president, Danie Serfontein, speaking at the launch in London of the Rothmans Rugby Union Yearbook, said that the next step would be to increase it to a year, 'so that short-term inducements are out of the window'. And if that did not work, even harsher measures would be considered.

'We all know there's a lot of money going into players' pockets and we are trying to keep it out,' Serfontein said. This is the RFU's response to a problem it believes is bringing the game into disrepute. Serfontein added that figures of pounds 5,000 were regularly bandied about as the unofficial cost of signing up leading players. The difficulty was that direct evidence was almost impossible to come by.

'Although we have changed our eligibility and registration qualification and have extended the period, it has had no effect on this season. But I've no doubt it will have quite an impact next season,' he said. 'If it doesn't, then we will change it again and make it even more difficult. We know we aren't going to get evidence from clubs or players that they've received so much money as an inducement to go from one club to another. It's an abhorrent situation.'

The longer the league goes on, the closer the RFU seems to be moving to the draconian French system, which already imposes a year-long qualification on transferred players, forcing them to play second-team rugby while they serve their term. In England, players may appear for their former club while qualifying, whether the period is 120 days or the milder 30 days applied to those moving up three or more divisions.

Serfontein picked on one striking example: the close-season exodus from Gloucester which included such oddities as Mike Teague's transfer to Moseley and Kevin Dunn's for Wasps. 'We may never get the evidence but we will make the regulations tougher and tougher,' Serfontein warned. 'If you take a club like Gloucester who lost 12 of their players, I think it's quite appalling.'

Stuart Evans, the former Neath and Wales prop who is still under contract to St Helens, played rugby union for Grenoble last month in spite of regulations to the contrary. The French Rugby Federation had inadvertently granted him a licence.