Harlequins, the club at the centre of the unprecedented "Bloodgate" scandal that has cost them the services of Dean Richards as their director of rugby as well as fines and expenses running to well over £500,000, were thrown into fresh turmoil last night after the full grisly details of the fake injury incident and subsequent cover-up were published by disciplinary officials. Even if the Rugby Football Union does not revisit this week's decision not to take further action against the Londoners – and the chances are that it will – the new revelations will wreck whatever is left of Quins' reputation and send them into freefall just 10 days before the start of the new Premiership season.
To make matters worse, there is now considerable doubt as to whether Ian McGeechan, who coached the Lions during the summer and recently emerged as favourite to replace Richards, will wish to have his name associated with a sporting organisation in the throes of the biggest crisis in its 143-year history. It is thought McGeechan was prepared to consider a move to the Stoop provided there was no fresh controversy. Controversy is now the only show in town.
Richards resigned earlier this month after Tom Williams, who notoriously bit on a capsule containing fake blood during the closing stages of April's Heine-ken Cup quarter-final defeat by Leinster, decided to make a full disclosure of the facts to an independent European Rugby Cup tribunal in an effort to have a 12-month suspension reduced. Along with other members of the Quins staff, including Richards, the wing had denied any wrongdoing at the initial hearing, but then changed track after taking advice from lawyers and the Professional Rugby Players' Association.
In his second submission, Williams revealed how Richards had initiated the blood scam in an effort to get the specialist goal-kicker Nick Evans back onto the field. He also told how he asked the club doctor, Wendy Chapman, to give him a real injury by cutting his lip – a ruse to fox those match officials and Leinster back-room staff who were suspicious of the "wound".
But the most damning evidence provided by Williams concerned the aftermath. He told of how some of those involved were told to sign statements handed out by Richards – at one point, he said, Nick Evans described the situation as "bullshit" – and also spoke of the intense pressure applied by senior Harlequins figures when he informed them of his decision to make a full disclosure in support of his appeal. He was told of the potential consequences for the club, and revealed that the chairman, Charles Jillings, offered him a handsome compensation package including a contract extension, a testimonial and help with his career after rugby.
"When I was debating how to deal with this appeal," Williams said in his evidence to the panel, "I thought about how I would look back over my career in 10 or 20 years' time. I realised that if I failed to tell the truth, the permanent stain on my record would be far bigger. I can only hope that by coming clean, future players will realise that they need to stand up for themselves."
As a result of these revelations, Williams had his ban cut to four months. Richards, who registered his disagreement with some of the players' assertions, was suspended from all rugby for three years, while the physiotherapist Steph Brennan, who gave Williams the capsule, was given a two-year ban. The case against Dr Chapman was dismissed because the panel felt it had "no jurisdiction".Reuse content