English Rugby
Richards quits Harlequins
August 8, 2009

Harlequins' Director of Rugby Dean Richards has resigned from the Premiership side in the wake of the fake blood injury controversy that saw player Tom Williams handed a 12-month suspension and the club hit with a £215,000 fine.

Williams and the club were both found guilty of fabricating a cut to the mouth in order to allow substituted fly-half Nick Evans to return to the field with five minutes remaining of their Heineken Cup quarter-final loss to Leinster last season.

Richards, plus two members of the club's medical team, had misconduct complaints dismissed by an independent disciplinary panel following an investigation. However, during the course of the club's internal review of the incident, Richards tendered his resignation that has subsequently been accepted by the club's board.

In a further twist to the long-running saga, ERC Disciplinary Officer Roger O'Connor has since appealed the decision to clear Richards of any wrongdoing and also the level of sanction imposed on the club. It has also been announced that Williams has lodged an appeal against the severity of the ban that was imposed on him after being found guilty of misconduct.

In a statement released this morning, Harlequins accepted the sanction handed down to the club insisting that they were, "accountable for the failings of its staff." But they have revealed that they will support Williams in his appeal against a ban they regards as, "unfair and disproportionate."

The disciplinary panel's full written judgment was emailed to both parties on Wednesday and if no appeal is forthcoming the contents of the judgment will then be made public. Williams is understood to have been in contact with the players' union - the Professional Rugby Players' Association - who have provided him with specialist legal advice.

PRA chief executive Damian Hopley reacted furiously to the verdict, claiming Williams had been "singled out" and that a 12-month ban was "excessive and entirely disproportionate".

Richards, who has not spoken in public about the incident, established himself as one of the world's leading players and then coaches in a 20-year spell with Leicester Tigers. The No.8 played 314 games for Leicester, winning two league titles and two cups. He was capped 48 times by England between 1982 and 1997 and played on two British & Irish Lions tours.

Richards, 46, took over as director of rugby at Welford Road in 1998 and won four consecutive league titles as well as back-to-back Heineken Cups in 2001 and 2002. A decline in fortunes led to his sacking in 2004 and a short spell in charge at Grenoble preceded his appointment at Quins in 2005.

He led the Londoners to promotion back to the Premiership in his first season and established them as a top-flight side over the next three years. Quins finished second in the table last season before losing in the play-offs to London Irish.

The full statement released by Harlequins earlier today read:

"Following the hearing held and decision made by the ERC panel on the 20th of July, the Club has conducted its own review of the incident. This review is still ongoing. As part of this process, the Club has waited for the written judgement to ensure it had considered carefully the concerns and position of the ERC disciplinary panel. The panel found the Club guilty on two counts. Firstly, that through the act of the player a wound or blood injury was fabricated by some means and secondly, that the club failed to instil in the player a sufficient respect for the laws of the game and ERC. The Panel imposed a fine of 250,000 Euros, half of which was suspended.

The Club fully accepts the verdicts and sanctions imposed upon the Club since it is accountable for the failings of its staff. During the course of this process Dean Richards unreservedly tendered his resignation from his post as Director of Rugby. The board of Harlequins has accepted his resignation.

The Club feels strongly that the severity of the sanction meted out to Tom Williams is unfair and disproportionate and the Club will support him in the event of an appeal on his part against the 12 month playing ban currently in place.

We acknowledge that this whole episode has tarnished the image of the Club which has always sought to uphold the highest standards. The level of scrutiny that clubs such as Harlequins now find themselves under means that procedures and processes which may have served us well in the past are no longer adequate. The Club is urgently undertaking a thorough review of its internal policies with a view to establishing an appropriate ethics code for all staff (both playing and non playing) covering a wide range of areas including respect for the laws of the game.

While this process is still progressing there will no further comment from the club."

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