Richards comes clean in wake of ban
August 20, 2009
Former Quins boss Dean Richards could yet be hit by further punishment with the RFU conducting their own investigation © Getty Images
Former Harlequins director of rugby Dean Richards has lifted the lid on his role in the 'Bloodgate' scandal.
In a statement released to the Press Association, a "mortified" Richards confirmed he was the mastermind behind the incident and that he ordered winger Tom Williams to fake a blood injury in last season's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Leinster. Richards also pointed the finger at Williams by revealing that it was the player who insisted on having his lip cut to cover up the fabrication.
The former England international was banned for three years at a European Rugby Cup disciplinary hearing on Monday while Harlequins were fined £260,000 and Williams had a 12-month suspension reduced to four months after coming clean.
"I have always been passionate about rugby and in the dying minutes of that Heineken Cup quarter-final - a stage that Harlequins had never reached before - I allowed my passion for the club to compromise my judgment," Richards said ina statement.
"I ordered a blood substitution to be made using fake blood. Thankfully the substitution did not affect the outcome of the game. Some eight days later I was told by Tom Williams that, in the heat of the moment and at his direction, he had his lip cut to make it appear as if there had been a real injury if anyone asked to look at it.
"Believing this to be true, I felt a managerial duty and sense of loyalty to safeguard the professional position of those involved. From then on, with the agreement of Tom Williams, I suggested the fabrication of a story which led to us all withholding the true facts, a position that was obviously wrong.
"I have since made clear that I accept full responsibility for what happened and have apologised for my actions. I honestly believed that I was acting in the best interests of the club and my colleagues, a clearly mistaken belief.
"I am mortified that this matter has brought damaging publicity on Harlequins, members of its staff, my own family and the wider game of rugby, a game that I am passionate about.
"I have co-operated fully with the Harlequins' internal investigation that is still ongoing and I am relieved for all at the club that my actions have not cost them a place in the Heineken Cup this season. I will review the full judgment of the appeal committee when it is released and I will be making a decision on my future and any appeal after that."
Later in the day Richards added further detail, telling BBC Radio Five Live, "It isn't something we rehearsed, it was something on the spur of the moment. When we went through with it and I was stood on the touchline I was thinking, 'Oh my god'.
"I saw Tom coming off with blood all around his mouth and walking like Bruce Grobbelaar. I was mortified and I knew at that point, instantly, something would come of it. It wasn't very well done at all. It was Fred Karno's Circus to be honest."
The 'Bloodgate' incident occurred with five minutes remaining in last season's quarter-final and Harlequins trailing Leinster 6-5. Quins did not have a specialist kicker on the field, having replaced Nick Evans earlier in the match and then seen back-up fly-half Chis Malone carried off injured.
A blood replacement was the only way Harlequins could legitimately send Evans, who had been struggling with a knee injury but was officially replaced for tactical reasons, back on to the field.
Television cameras had spotted Williams winking towards the bench as he left the field. Harlequins engineered one late drop-goal attempt but Evans missed.
The original ERC disciplinary panel dropped charges against Richards, physio Steph Brennan and doctor Wendy Chapman due to lack of evidence. But when Williams decided to appeal against his 12-month ban and come clean on the cover-up, the spotlight was turned back on the club.
Richards was banned for three years. Brennan, now an England physio, received a two-year suspension and the RFU are currently reviewing his position. Charges against Chapman were again dropped because the appeal committee lacked jurisdiction.
The ERC appeal hearing on Monday heard evidence that Harlequins could have faked injuries on four other occasions, the details of which are being passed to the Rugby Football Union.
However, in the latest twist to the saga Quins were at the centre of another row last night for refusing to hand over a confidential document containing the names of players involved in those other matches in which fake blood was used to simulate an injury.
The Times reports that ERC have demanded a copy of that document, which was compiled by Harlequins as part of their internal investigation. However, the club are resisting the order because they feel it would constitute a breach of trust.