Rugby Union: RFU applies clamp on transfers

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The Independent Online
Unprecedented restrictions on amateur rugby players changing clubs were announced yesterday by the Rugby Football Union in response to the shamateurism which it believes has helped induce the annual mass migration.

'The RFU,' its competitions chairman, John Jeavons-Fellows, intoned to club representatives at Twickenham, 'continues to be deeply concerned about the movement of players between clubs and indeed the offers of inducement.'

Dudley Wood, the RFU secretary, said a year ago that constant transfers were bringing the game into disrepute and after thinking about it the union has decided to make the mover wait. Any upward transfer of three or more divisions requires 30 days' qualification without playing competitive rugby; any other move, up or down, will mean 120 days, the consolation being that in either event you may continue playing for your original club.

'You must not forget the situation we were facing: that there were rumours and reports of inducements being offered at all levels. This had to be brought to a halt,' Wood said at yesterday's Courage Clubs' Championship launch.

'If it seems harsh and Draconian, we will have to look at it as it continues at the lower levels. But it is right and proper to insist on these new regulations being strictly observed until we see how they work.'

The domestic restrictions are nothing to those that will apply to overseas players, who will have to bring with them International Board clearance and serve 180 non- competitive days. Sixty days out of this country during a calendar year will entail another 180 days.

The problems of overseas players has been highlighted at Bristol, whose new scrum-half from Transvaal, Francois du Preez, has gone back to South Africa because he has no work permit. Bristol are working on it, presumably with a 60-day time limit.

When the Courage league kicks off on 19 September it will contain 1,190 clubs, an increase of 19, in 93 divisions, a reduction of 17 because each has been increased from 12 to 13. However, the end of this season will bring the reduction of the national divisions from 13 to 10 to incorporate home and away fixtures, with three dropping from the First, seven from the Second, and eight from the Third helping form the new Fourth.

This is the final year of Courage's present pounds 2.1m sponsorship. Negotiations towards a new deal begin soon, with the current business climate, not withstanding Heineken's pounds 3m cash commitment to Welsh rugby this week, meaning success is not certain.

Packing down for prosperity,

Chalmers' revenge, page 38