RFU members seek publication of John Steele sacking report

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The Independent Online

The Rugby Football Union is today expected to come under pressure from members of its own council to publish Jeff Blackett's report into the sacking of chief executive John Steele.

The council commissioned Blackett, a high court judge, to undertake a review of the process which led to Steele leaving the RFU just nine months after taking the post.

It is believed one of the recommendations contained in the critical 52-page report was that then-chairman Martyn Thomas and the majority of the board should resign.

The report was considered at the last board meeting on July 10, at which Thomas did stand down - although he insisted that was only to concentrate on his role as acting chief executive.

The council voted against publishing the report after Thomas' lawyers threatened to sue Blackett for defamation during the meeting.

Bill Beaumont is also understood to have given a speech which implied the RFU ran the risk of losing the right to host the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

One council source told Press Association Sport they felt unable to demand publication in those circumstances, without having any chance to seek further advice.

A vote of no confidence in the board was defeated at the July 10 meeting by a majority verdict.

As a result, the report was kept confidential - but since then at least 24 council members are understood to have signed a motion, which has been submitted to the RFU, demanding publication.

The Daily Telegraph has today reported that all council member received a letter outlining the possible ramifications of publishing Blackett's findings.

The newspaper reports that legal opinion was given by Deputy High Court judge Robert Englehart, QC, who concluded that publication would be "inadvisable".

The RFU has been engulfed in turmoil since Steele was ousted from his post on June 9 after losing the confidence of Thomas and the board.

Central to Steele's downfall was the RFU's botched attempts at recruiting a performance director.