Richards 'central' to Bloodgate scandal

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The Independent Online

Dean Richards has been described as the "directing mind" and having "central control" in the 'Bloodgate' fake injury scandal.

Former Harlequins rugby director Richards is strongly criticised in a written judgement of his European Rugby Cup appeal hearing, published today.



ERC disciplinary officer Roger O'Connor appealed an original decision to find misconduct complaints against Richards and ex-Quins physiotherapist Steph Brennan not proven.



A subsequent appeal committee then banned Richards for three years, imposed a two-year suspension on Brennan and also increased Quins' fine to 300,000 euro.



And Richards' role in 'Bloodgate' is now laid bare in a damning judgement running to almost 100 pages.



The blood injury scandal involved wing Tom Williams during Quins' Heineken Cup quarter-final clash against Leinster last season.

He was given a fake blood capsule in an attempt to get goal kicker Nick Evans, who had earlier left the field injured, back into the action.



Quins lost the game 6-5, and Williams received a 12-month suspension following the incident, which was subsequently reduced to four months on appeal.



Details of Williams' written judgement at the appeal were released last week, and further documentation regarding evidence given by Richards and Brennan has now been published.



In their judgement, the appeal committee said: "Mr Richards was the directing mind and had central control over everything that happened in relation to the fabrication of the blood injury on the pitch, and the cover-up in the days after the match.



"The only aspect of the matter in which the appeal committee determined he did not have direct involvement was the alleged cutting of Mr Williams' lip by Dr (Wendy) Chapman.



"It was Mr Richards who had instigated and directed arrangements which enabled the fabrication of blood injuries as and when that was convenient and would assist the club during matches.



"In one of the highest profile matches in which the club had ever been involved, he was prepared to try to cheat Leinster out of a victory by bringing on a player at a crucial stage in the match when that player was not entitled to return to the field of play.



"He was quite disinterested in the consideration that by acting the way he did the club which deserved to win the match might be deprived of its victory.



"He had long since recruited Mr Brennan as his willing lieutenant in such activities, and in identifying Mr Williams as the person who would fake the blood injury he had selected a player who he thought could be suborned into cheating.



"His (Richards) was the dominant personality and influence on affairs.



"He instigated the cover-up to the extent of requiring Mr Brennan to fabricate statements and then refining the fabrications to ensure that all statements were consistent.



"We considered the primary interest of Mr Richards was in preventing his own role in events being discovered."

The appeal committee judgement continued: "Mr Richards arranged matters so that those who were charged with misconduct complaints would lie to the legal team and would then lie to the disciplinary hearing.

"Mr Richards was by far and away the most experienced and senior individual involved.



"It was open to him at any stage to have said that 'enough is enough' and that the reputation of rugby and Harlequins had been sufficiently damaged.



"If he had admitted at any stage prior to the conclusion of the disciplinary hearing the truth of what had happened then the damage to individuals, the club and the game of rugby union would have been very much reduced."



In relation to Brennan's role, the committee said he had played "a crucial role" in fabricating the blood injury to Williams.



"His (Brennan's) involvement in the cover up of events after the match was integral.



"He was effectively compelled into telling the truth by the actions of Mr Williams in disclosing how the fabricated blood injury had happened and the cover up which followed the match.



"If Mr Williams had not come forward and given the true version of what had happened then Mr Brennan, like Mr Richards, would never have told the truth and admitted his involvement in the fabrication of the blood injury and the subsequent cover up."



Quins have so far avoided expulsion from this season's Heineken Cup - their opening game is scheduled against Cardiff Blues for October 10.



However, ERC could now revisit Quins' situation, while the Rugby Football Union might also decide to investigate further.



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