James Lawton: Only when Bloodgate's shamed have all been punished can rugby move on

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At least Tom Williams, the Harlequins wing who lost the last of his martyr's clothes this week when the latest "Bloodgate" evidence welled so disagreeably to the surface, knew precisely the price of his integrity.

All the Quins had to do to own his soul as well as his body was cough up his mortgage. It was more than 30 pieces of silver but just a fraction of the cost that will surely be levied on his woebegone club if the RFU take their responsibilities seriously enough.

Yesterday the game's supreme authority in this country announced a high-profile Image of the Game Task group which is expected to produce a "comprehensive" report on cheating and drug abuse.

Such old national heroes as Lawrence Dallaglio and Rob Andrew have been recruited in what many suspect will be a futile window-dressing operation. No doubt there is a need for a wide-ranging investigation, but first there is a much more pressing requirement.

It is for the RFU to show they understand that when Harlequins attempted to buy the silence of the central figure in an episode of serial cheating initiated by iconic coach Dean Richards they betrayed not just themselves but an entire game, and that appropriate punishment ultimately has to be applied by those who are in charge of all aspects of rugby.

The European Cup administrators are expected to ban Harlequins from this year's lucrative competition and the Premier League have yet to show their hand. This is a labyrinth of authority, the kind of set-up custom made for buck-passing, and it is precisely because of this that the RFU needs to act swiftly and with more force than is required to announce what might or might not turn out to be rugby's version of the Hutton Report.

Richards' three-year-ban is beginning to look flimsier by the day and Harlequins chairman Charles Jillings – who resigned yesterday – as well as the chief executive Mark Evans have surely forfeited their right to have any further role at the business end of the sport whose purported values they have quite thoroughly trashed.

Is Harlequins' likely banishment from Europe for a season sufficient punishment? It is hard to think that their membership of the top division of the domestic league should not also be suspended for at least a year. You can just hear the cries about Draconian sentencing, over-the-top reaction, but how do you go over the top when dealing with the level of dishonesty revealed this week?

In fact some rugby men may come to see the value of this week's unveiling of Williams' canary candour in the second inquiry into the desperate affair. At the very least it obliged a sport which for so long believed itself – give or take a bit of eye-gauging, stamping and scrum manipulation – so much more morally superior to its big cousin professional football, to accept that it had a problem at least as sickening as institutionalised diving.

Before the revelation of Williams' negotiations with Jillings and his rejection of an offer that did not include a mortgage-free future, the RFU's disciplinary officer, Judge Jeff Blackett, said that he would not be investigating four other cases of cheating admitted by club officials.

The explanation of Blackett, a naval man and the Judge Advocate of the armed services who once revealed that he had lectured the current England coach Martin Johnson as though he was a "young sailor who had crossed the line" while handing out a five-week suspension for his kneeling down and punching an opponent, was, well, somewhat pragmatic.

After saying there would be no further pursuit of Richards, the physiotherapist Steph Brennan and the four players said to have engaged in their own "Bloodgate" adventures, Blackett declared: "On each occasion the decision to use fake blood was made by the team management and not the players themselves. Mr Richards and Mr Brennan have already been punished significantly. The players named by Mr Brennan have not had the opportunity to respond to any allegations against them.

"Before taking any further disciplinary action another investigation would be required and it would rely on the co-operation of Mr Brennan and Mr Richards. This would take time and would continue to attract comment and speculation which might further damage reputations." That is indeed the trouble with scandals, your honour, they do rather play hell with reputations.

However, by the end of this week Judge Blackett, along with all his colleagues at the RFU, had plainly grasped that the reputation most at risk was that of the game of rugby. All that has to happen now is that concern for that reputation is expressed in the only convincing way. This has to be hard and practical in a way that fact-finding missions can never be.

The facts – the vital and terribly damaging ones – are already public property. They say that after many years of denial, rugby is like so much of the rest of professional sport. It has a major cheating problem, one which has engulfed a famous name and a famous club. The infamy, we are also told, doesn't end there. It means that the RFU has a very clear duty.

It is to deal with the known miscreants and punish them according to their crimes. Then a line can be drawn and the rebuilding of trust can begin. The task is not to re-make a game's image but the way it is entitled to think of itself.

Wenger makes a mockery of beautiful game

There is no conflict in admiring so much of what Arsenal stand for and at the same time applauding the decision of Uefa to charge their player Eduardo da Silva with deceiving a referee.

It was an outrageous piece of cheating and when manager Arsène Wenger talks of the evidence not being conclusive he takes us for fools.

Wenger added: "It singles out a player in Europe to be a cheat and that is not acceptable. Uefa has taken action that is not defendable."

It is if you believe that diving is the single most disgusting aspect of football – and that this decision may put on warning so many other practitioners of the dark art, which is a list you can fill in according to your own prejudice but is probably certain to contain such names as Ronaldo, Rooney, Drogba, Eboué, Gerrard, Torres and, on occasion, even the clean-cut Michael Owen.

In a tide of mostly hostile reaction to critical comments made about Eduardo's action someone remembered a declaration made by the Arsenal manager a year ago.

Wenger announced: "What is important to me is to play in a fair way and in a way that people will enjoy. A trophy is what you can show, but the way you play, the way you behave, these are also important, but that is not the only thing in sport. Moral integrity is important. For me, sport is more than just winning trophies."

For some time the concept of moral integrity on the football field has so often been nothing so much as an elaborate joke.

It was certainly that at the Emirates the other night when Eduardo went down without any contact from the Celtic goalkeeper. He and some of his colleagues celebrated with great abandon when he scored the penalty. It made a mockery of a fine team's contribution to the idea that football can still be a beautiful game. It also made Wenger sound like the author of the most hollow platitude, at least when a penalty was there for the stealing.

What price the greatness of Muhammad Ali?

Reports that Muhammad Ali's tour of this country is proceeding against a backcloth of agent squabbling should be more than usually depressing but the truth is that money was never high in the great man's calculations.

He knew his value but not always in terms of hard cash. The promoter Don King once paid him off with a fraction of his due simply by wrapping a pile of $100 notes in some brown paper. It was enough that life could proceed along enjoyable lines for the foreseeable future.

There has always been someone to claim a piece of Muhammad Ali's greatness. Yet even as a shell of his former self, he still has the power to spread the joy of his existence. It is, he knows, something the world will always want, and he has always placed that above the terms of his latest contract.

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