London Welsh claim victim status as five-point penalty hits

Exiles to appeal after Keats ruling leaves them bottom of league and blaming fraud

London Welsh are still just about alive after their disciplinary trauma, but they now face a desperate fight to defend their Premiership status after being docked five league points for inadvertently fielding an incorrectly registered player, the scrum-half Tyson Keats, in a series of games before Christmas. The Exiles are now two points adrift of Sale at the foot of the table, with five games remaining.

Last night’s decision, communicated by the Rugby Football Union panel of inquiry chairman, Jeremy Summers, struck a raw nerve with the club, who themselves brought the irregularity to the notice of the governing body following the departure of Mike Scott, their team manager. Scott has been charged with conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game and will face a separate hearing.

“We are hugely disappointed and shocked at the ruling made by the RFU hearings committee, which we believe is extremely harsh under the circumstances,” said Tony Copsey, the London Welsh chief executive. “It is our belief that the ruling is fundamentally flawed and I can confirm that the club will definitely be appealing the decision.”

In an unusually strongly worded statement, the Exiles said they were “unknowingly the victim of one individual’s fraudulent conduct”, pointing out that it was they who “discovered the fraud” and had been “punished on the basis that the club are to blame for what that individual has done”.

When news of the Keats affair broke, London Welsh stressed that the New Zealander was in no way responsible for the situation, which involved a raft of misleading nationality information being filed to the RFU – and a six-hour hearing took place in London on Tuesday. The panel spent two days considering the evidence before deciding on an immediate points deduction.

The panel decided that a similar penalty should be suspended until the end of next season. They also fined the club £15,000. Even though many predicted a stronger sanction – an instant nine-point deduction was thought to be par for the course, despite the Exiles’ honesty in raising the offence to the authorities’ attention and their cooperation in aiding the investigation – the result of the case will hurt them badly. Far from financially secure, they can ill afford any financial hit. Far more worrying is the increased risk of relegation, which would hole them below the waterline in cash terms, given the small crowds at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford, where they play home games.

In his published judgement, Summers described the case as “extraordinary”. He was not exaggerating. The panel heard that Scott falsely informed Keats’ agent that an ancestry visa had been obtained; submitted a false player registration form to the RFU claiming that Keats had been born in Christchurch, England; delayed providing a copy of the player’s passport as proof before submitting an illegible document; and then emailed a passport copy that turned out to be a forgery.

Eventually, Scott sent an email to a club official admitting he had created “one almighty mess” in trying to obtain a visa for Keats “through the back door” and then confessed to Copsey that he had forged documents and repeatedly lied to cover up his actions. The panel was also told that Scott had accepted a caution from the Metropolitan Police, thereby admitting fraud by false representation.

Keats, one of the Exiles’ most influential players this season, played 10 matches under the false registration. He now has an ancestry visa – his maternal grandfather was born in England – and is correctly registered. He played the lion’s share of last Sunday’s match at Saracens, a courageous effort given the weight on his shoulders.

This is not the first time London Welsh have felt a burning need to appeal against an RFU judgement. After winning the second-tier Championship title last season, they were initially denied promotion on grounds that they had failed to meet minimum criteria laid down by the Premiership. They won on appeal, but by then it was barely possible to piece together a competitive top-flight squad, and most felt they would struggle to win a match. As it turned out, they won four league games before Christmas and picked up regular losing bonus points to give themselves a shot at survival.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home