Rugby Union: Protocol for transfers

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ENGLISH rugby union's transfer market - the illicit but never officially detected inducements which prompt players to change clubs - has drawn Twickenham to draw up a written code of conduct which it hopes will be more effective than simple self-regulation, writes Steve Bale.

Unfortunately the new system will also depend on self-regulation. There is nothing in the new rules which will actually prevent contravention. The secret will still be not to get caught.

As Bob Rogers of the Rugby Football Union put it: 'Even though there's a law against murder, people still commit murder.' It is a decent attempt, put in the form of a document released by the RFU yesterday and circulated to all member clubs for comment before the end of June. It clearly defines what is permissible under the wilting flower of amateurism.

A complaints procedure will be set up under which a tribunal will investigate alleged breaches with power to reprimand, suspend or ban individual players, and/or reprimand, deduct up to six league points, relegate, exclude, suspend or expel clubs. These are measures nearly all of which were already at the union's disposal.

It is the RFU's response to a mountain of allegation without proof. 'If it's allowed to continue it merely descends into whoever has the biggest cheque-book has the strongest team,' Dudley Wood, the secretary, said. 'Nobody wants to see that.'