Rugby Union: Richmond adjust to poorer life after Levett

What happens when the man who pays the bills quits? We will now find out.

AT THE beginning of the season, when Richmond put 40 points on Newcastle in front of a crowd of nearly 10,000 at the Madejski Stadium in Reading, Ashley Levett was happy to put his money where his mouth was.

He had a bet at 14-1 on Richmond winning the Allied Dunbar Premiership. The betting slip is now in the dustbin, along with Levett's more substantial investment in the club, which is estimated at some pounds 6m. A few days ago he abruptly withdrew his support, forcing Richmond into a series of crisis meetings and eventually into administration on Friday evening. Tony Hallett, one of only two directors left on the board, confessed he was "flabbergasted" by the developments.

Last Wednesday Levett and Ben Clarke, the Richmond captain, were at the headquarters of Oracle, the club's main sponsor, meeting the Princess Royal. On Friday Richmond announced they were applying to go into administration, which is another way of describing a lifeline for those thrown in at the deep end. If the application is granted it will give Richmond some time to mount a rescue operation.

Levett, who held 80 per cent of the non-redeemable shares, had cut the purse strings with immediate effect. Those at the club who thought they knew the Monaco-based millionaire reasonably well were stunned by the timing of his decision.

Last weekend Richmond knocked the favourites, Leicester, out of the quarter- finals of the Tetley's Bitter Cup at the Madejski in what was probably their finest hour and a half. Levett was not there to see it. Nor was there any message of congratulation. Somebody should have suspected then that something was wrong.

"The greatest irony," John Kingston, the club's director of rugby said, "is that the man who allowed us to have memorable days like last Saturday no longer wants to be involved with us. It's very, very sad."

Levett, who made his fortune as a copper trader, is one of the entrepreneurs who bought into rugby after the game was thrown open in 1995. As the losses inevitably mounted, so did the frustration of the owners. There was the lack of a properly structured season, which served only to widen the gap between income and expenditure, and interminable rows between the clubs and the governing bodies about fixtures, television income, Europe, indeed virtually everything bar the price of bread.

Levett was also frustrated in his plans to develop the Richmond Athletic Ground, so he struck a deal with Reading football club to share the new Madejski Stadium in Berkshire. "Premiership rugby in the Thames Valley," was the slogan promoted throughout the Royal County and although the crowds were considerably larger than at the Athletic Ground, the royalties remained relatively modest.

Richmond's squad is down to 28 players, its annual wage bill trimmed to pounds 1.5m. Levett knew he could afford to carry on bankrolling Richmond but the fact is he didn't want to. He had lost patience. The club owners are unaccustomed to not getting their way. They are also familiar with making money, not losing it.

When Levett pulled the plug he did not heed the requests of the Richmond die-hards for more time. His monthly injections of cash have stopped. The club asked for a month, or even a week. "For reasons I don't understand but respect," Hallett said, "Ashley is finished with the club in financial terms."

Hallett, a former secretary of the Rugby Football Union who resigned as chief executive of Richmond last November, said he and his supporters were "on a mission to save the club". He added: "If the judge agrees to administration it will give us three months' breathing space during which we can continue to play, run the business and protect the creditors. It will be a very tight ship but we are determined to turn this disaster into a triumph. Members and others have already offered to help. We are in good heart."

There will almost certainly be job losses and salary cuts if Richmond are to survive, at least in the short term, as a fully professional Premiership club. Kingston has already addressed the players, and the board, or what remains of it, will talk to the squad tomorrow.

"Rugby is not like other businesses," Kingston said. "You can only make so many cuts. If you do not have a squad you do not have a business. Four years ago Richmond were bottom of the old Third Division. The club has had a fantastic rise and although I'm massively grateful to Ashley for what he has done it's not all down to money. We have a great young side and if the salvage operation is going to affect the playing staff I'll go off and do something else. I'm not going to stand around to see everything we've built up get ripped down. If a club like Richmond can't get it sorted there's nowhere for rugby to go."

When the Welsh Internationals Scott Quinnell and John Davies left the club, Kingston did not replace them. "Richmond might have this reputation of being a big money-bags club," Kingston said, "but it's not been easy for a year. The club has done nothing wrong and the players feel very let down."

Richmond are not the first and nor will they be the last club to find themselves heading for an iceberg. Bedford, London Scottish and Newcastle have already launched the lifeboats following the withdrawal of funds by their leading benefactors.

Meanwhile, if Richmond are successful in buying time and paying their bills, they have a potentially lucrative cup semi- final to look forward to next month at the Madejski. It should be an even contest: Richmond, without Ashley Levett, against Newcastle, minus Sir John Hall.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show?
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Co-ordinator - Birmingham - Permanant

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Head of Maths

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Head of Maths position at a prestigious ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Computer Futures

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week