Peter Bills: Cowardly ERC leave rugby in ruins

There is no longer anyone in professional rugby willing to uphold any longer the cause of right over wrong. A sport once renowned for its impeccable standards of behaviour and discipline has sunk into the trench where some other sports, once derided by rugby as lesser species, have resided for so long. How the mighty have fallen.

The stench from the trench has been hugely magnified by rugby's behaviour in the light of blatant cheating by Harlequins. But what is worse is the pitiful, cowardly response of ERC, the organisation charged with running what was once known as European rugby's premier tournament.



No longer. The Heineken Cup can now be called the Cheats Cup, because Harlequins have been cleared to continue playing in the tournament. Convicted, confessed cheats allowed to play on in a major tournament which they tried to ridicule and destroy by their actions? You just couldn't make this up.



It's hard to know who is the most culpable, the original cheats from the London club or the pathetic creatures sitting in judgement on the ERC board who could not bring themselves to do what every fair-minded person in sport who has retained their honesty and sense of decency knew what was inevitable; namely, remove 'Quins from the Heineken Cup.



Only ERC plus Harlequins and its apologists believe the club should have received the green light to continue playing in a tournament they treated with such disgraceful cynicism. The rest of sport is mystified by this eagerness to welcome back cheats.



But what sort of message does this send to the game and indeed the entire sporting world? Briefly, that rugby tolerates cheats who can expect nothing worse than a financial penalty for their misdemeanours. What a grotesque abrogation of their duties as custodians of the game, what a dereliction of duty.



Of course, ERC did what some always suspected they would do. They chickened out by finding a convenient scapegoat and loading every single ounce of blame for the affair on his shoulders. Most convenient that he had already been thrown out of the game for three years.



But what ERC failed to answer were these questions. Why have Harlequins been allowed to continue in the tournament when so many others apart from Dean Richards have also been involved? How is it that it eventually came out that Harlequins had originally done everything in their power – and we're not talking just about Richards here – to obfuscate, block and frustrate ERC's original enquiry? How is it that they do nothing when other officials named by Tom Williams allegedly offered the player riches to cover it all up and take the rap single handed?



If Harlequins are generally clean and this was all down to Richards, why did the Chairman, Charles Jillings, resign? That very act told you this rotten affair permeated just about every corridor of the London club. At least he, unlike the Chief Executive, was man enough to accept his responsibility and fall on his sword. Rugby in general can have only contempt for a man in the Chief Executive's role who tries to sit on the fence and weave in the wind to avoid any of the blame.



But maybe such behaviour is to be expected of certain individuals. What was not expected was the way ERC capitulated in their duty to uphold the good name of the game and its image of decency. By their actions, they have helped Harlequins destroy that.



Had the appropriate organising body stood up and said 'We simply abhor this behaviour and a very severe example must be made of those who go down this particular road', both ERC and rugby football would at least have salvaged something of its dignity from this shocking affair.



Alas, we have seen the complete opposite from ERC. It is a tragic day for rugby football, the world over.

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Sport
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
football
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn