Rugby Union: Top clubs benefit by court ruling

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The Independent Online
THE MAYFAIR Agreement looks set for the shredder after Rotherham's case against English First Division Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and English Rugby Partnership was dismissed in London's High Court yesterday.

Rotherham alleged that EFDR was in breach of Mayfair by reducing the size of next season's First Division from 14 clubs to 12 without giving the statutory 12 months' notice.

Rotherham's plaint, heard by Mr Justice Ferris, foundered on the understanding that Mayfair, which was struck in June last year and accepted by the 24 clubs in the Allied Dunbar Premiership, modified the Leicester Agreement which preceded it. Crucial to the case was clause 30 of Leicester, which enables its signatories - EFDR RFU, ERP and English Second Division Rugby - to deal with the organisation of competitions, and issues relating to promotion and relegation. Although the implications have only a nominal effect in the short term, the result gives more power to the clubs in the top flight, just as in football's Premiership.

For Rotherham, Gerard Elias QC argued that the intention of Mayfair was to bring stability allied to certainty, and that any change could only be brought about by mutual agreement. When it became evident in the spring that some restructuring would be possible if London Scottish and Richmond failed to survive, the warning signals were clear and EFDR began making noises about a 12-club First Division.

A key to the issue was a meeting of all the members of ERP at Northampton on 20 July this year, where a resolution was passed to accept a First Division of 12 clubs. All the Division Two clubs voted against, but, with the First Division clubs having two votes each to one by the Second Division clubs, the top clubs prevailed.