Rowell defeated in campaign to be RFU chairman

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The Independent Online

Jack Rowell, the former England and Bath coach last night lost his campaign to become chairman of the Rugby Football Union.

Jack Rowell, the former England and Bath coach last night lost his campaign to become chairman of the Rugby Football Union.

The vote at the Special General Meeting in London was 403 to 290 - around a 50 per cent turn-out - in favour of the traditionalists' candidate, Martyn Thomas, 60, an RFU council member for Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire since 2001 and player, coach and referee at the lower end of the game.

Thomas, a sometime lawyer and businessman represents a large chunk of the 1,400 member clubs and has pledged to bridge what is perceived as a growing divide between the professional game (the Premiership and the national team) and the amateur side from National League One down.

Rowell, 67, a hugely successful businessman and coach, had been seen by many as leaning too far towards the professional end of the game, despite promising in his manifesto to ensure that the community, and amateur, end of the game was not excluded.

Meanwhile the Premiership relegation issue may not have been settled but the question of promotion has. The National League One champions, Bristol, were last night confirmed as a Premiership club next year. A brief statement from the Rugby Football Union said: "The board of England Rugby Ltd today confirmed the promotion of Bristol Shoguns to the Premiership for season 2005-06."

The Bristol head coach, Richard Hill, the former England scrum-half and captain, said: "It is a reward for a big, big effort by everyone, management and players. Everyone mucks in - players and the small management team. We are up in Otley preparing for our final game and the timing of the news could not have been better."

The champions' trophy will be presented to Bristol at Otley today.

* The former Celtic Warriors owner, Leighton Samuel, took the first serious step in his legal action against the Welsh Rugby Union yesterday. The dispute centres on Samuel's sale of his 50 per cent share to the WRU and the Welsh region's subsequent closure.

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