London Welsh lose Keats appeal
Tue, 26 Mar 2013 12:47
We must acknowledge the impact on the integrity of the game
London Welsh have lost their appeal against a points deduction and fine for fielding Kiwi scrumhalf Tyson Keats who was ineligible to play in the Premiership.
The club appealed against the decision to deduct five league points and fine them £15,000, with a further five points deduction suspended until the end of the 2013-14 season, for fielding Keats in Aviva Premiership matches this season.
Mike Scott, the former London Welsh team manager, has been banned for life from rugby after he admitted supplying false information, including a forged passport, to England's governing Rugby Football Union (RFU).
Scott had told Keats' agent and London Welsh that the player had been granted an ancestry visa by virtue of his paternal grandfather, who was born in England.
This should have meant London Welsh received English Qualified Player payments from the RFU, due to Keats being available for selection to the national squad.
However, Keats had not been granted a visa. Scott, having asked Keats to sign a blank form, then submitted falsified documents to the RFU.
It claimed Keats had been born in Christchurch, England, as opposed to Christchurch, New Zealand, and held a UK passport.
When the RFU made further inquiries regarding Keats' registration, Scott sent a forged UK passport to Twickenham.
Scott went on sick leave in December, after failing to turn up for a European Challenge Cup game against Grenoble, but emailed the club's director of rugby Steve Lewis admitting he had created "one almighty mess" because he had been trying to get Keats' visa "through the back door".
The decision of the Independent Appeal Panel is that the immediate five league points deduction remains, with the further five points suspended deduction removed. The fine is confirmed as £15,000 to be paid within 21 days.
Chairman of the Independent Appeal Panel, Gareth Rees said: "The independent Appeal Panel accepts that the circumstances of this case are quite exceptional. However, we have to mark this serious breach with a points deduction and, although we have allowed the appeal in respect of the five points which were suspended, we must acknowledge the impact on the integrity of the game and deduct five Premiership points with immediate effect."
However, the club welcomes the Panel’s decision to remove the suspended five-point penalty imposed until the end of the 2013-14 season, and believes that this action justifies its decision to appeal.
The club also believes that this cause of action was necessary to restore the good name of the London Welsh RFC, as once it became clear what had happened, the club made every effort to 'remedy the situation' and did not, at any stage, deliberately attempt to deceive the RFU. A point acknowledged by the panel in their findings.
The club maintains, however, that it has ultimately been punished for the completely unnecessary fraudulent actions of one individual, whose actions the panel accepted "could not have been predicted".
"The club is hugely disappointed by the decision of the Independent Appeal Panel to uphold the five-point deduction for this season," said London Welsh CEO Tony Copsey.
"We are particularly disappointed for the players, who’ve given everything they can for the club, and ultimately it is they who have been punished for something completely beyond their control.
"However, there are still four games remaining in the season and the focus and efforts of the players, the coaching staff and everyone at London Welsh is now on those remaining matches."
According to Premiership Regulations 14.2 (c), the decision is final and binding.
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