London Welsh will take their place in the Premiership next season at the expense of Newcastle Falcons after winning their appeal yesterday against a decision by the Rugby Football Union to deny them promotion because of minimum ground standards criteria.
An independent appeal panel overturned the RFU's original decision after deliberating over the evidence for two days. Newcastle, who finished bottom of the Premiership last season, indicated before the hearing that they may threaten legal action if the decision went against them so it is likely that the issue may now end up in the courts.
The Championship winners argued that their agreement to use the Kassam Stadium alongside Oxford United removed any obstacles to their participation in the Premiership, despite the lack of primacy of tenure.
The fact that clubs like London Irish, Saracens, Sale and Wasps did not enjoy primacy of tenure last season appears to have been an influencing factor in the panel's decision.
London Welsh also pointed they have nominated three other grounds as back-up venues to the Kassam – Brentford, MK Dons and Newbury.
Their nominated second ground, Brentford's Griffin Park, was too far away from their base under the regulations. There was also a concern that London Welsh had failed to meet the 31 March deadline to submit their criteria application, one of the "various other factors" cited by the RFU for initially denying the club promotion.
The RFU now look set to under take a review of the minimum standards criteria. The last team to be denied promotion were Rotherham in 2002. That situation prompted First Division Rugby – the forerunner to the Championship – to lodge a complaint with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) against the RFU and Premiership Rugby.
The OFT ruled that clubs no longer had to be the main tenants at their home stadium but they must be able to stage matches at a venue on dates specified in advance by the Premiership.
London Welsh claimed the Championship with an aggregate 66-41 win over Cornish Pirates.