English Rugby
Evans saddened by 'Bloodgate' saga
August 20, 2009

Harlequins' chief executive Mark Evans is confident the club can rebuild their reputation in the wake of the 'Bloodgate' controversy.

Quins have been rocked by the fallout from the headline-grabbing saga that saw the club found guilty of fabricating a blood injury during their Heineken Cup quarter-final loss to Leinster last season.

Former director of rugby Dean Richards, who resigned from his post earlier this month, has since been handed a three-year global ban while winger Tom Williams has been suspended for four months, reduced from an original 12-month ban, for faking the injury in question. In addition, the club must pay a £260,000 fine after also being found guilty of misconduct.

The 'Bloodgate' incident saw Williams burst a fake blood capsule in his mouth with five minutes remaining in the high-profile clash. 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. Evans missed a late drop goal effort that allowed their Irish rivals to hold on for a narrow 6-5 victory.

The original European Rugby Cup disciplinary panel dropped charges against Richards, physio Steph Brennan and doctor Wendy Chapman due to lack of evidence but further investigation uncovered the truth including an attempted cover-up - orchestrated by Richards.

Brennan, now an England physio, received a two-year suspension and the Rugby Football Union are currently reviewing his position. Charges against Chapman were again dropped because the appeal committee lacked jurisdiction.

Speaking for the first time since the result of the appeals panel on Monday night, Evans expressed his disappointment at the actions of Richards and his hope that the club can bounce back.

"Am I angry with him? I think it is unbelievably sad," said Evans. "I know these people and so my reaction is much more personal. I do think the right action has been taken but I feel unbelievably sad, for him and for Steph. It was a perfect storm. They are not bad people. I am desperately disappointed, that is putting it mildly.

"We have still got a product we can be proud of. We have done an awful lot of good things for a long time and I don't think one event defines an organisation nor should one action define a person."

Evans also revealed the club will introduce a "whistle-blowing policy" as part of an internal review to ensure the situation never rears its head again. The club's review is still ongoing but Evans confirmed the doctor will no longer report to the director of rugby or head coach, a role currently filled by John Kingston.

"Nobody at Quins is trying to duck the fact we have made huge errors and made mistakes and it shouldn't have happened and we have to apologise for that," said Evans. "The fact that it may be not uncommon is no excuse. It is like when you are speeding. You are maybe doing 90mph and four cars go past you but you get the ticket - that is no defence.

"When you get caught all the shades of grey disappear into black and white and that is fair enough. One of the things this has shown to me is that some of the systems and the processes we have on the corporate side of rugby just weren't adequate for this.

"We didn't have a whistle-blowing policy in the club at all but we will have now, and I mean for players and non-players. We didn't have a well-thought-through way of dealing with something of this nature.

"We will make changes to our compliance and corporate governance. That might seems strange for what is effectively a relatively small company turning over £11million. But what this has shown me and others on the board is that because of the level of scrutiny and interest, you have got to have some compliance and corporate governance structures that usually you will find in bigger organisations.

"Rugby is still a relatively young sport and I would freely admit we didn't have the processes in place to deal as well as might have done. We have got to get ourselves sorted out. You can never guarantee you won't have something happen again - but we can guarantee that if it does we will have much better processes in place to deal with it.

"We have to do that because we never want to go through something like that again."

Evans believes the introduction of independent doctors on the sidelines is "inevitable" and he urged authorities to look at the issue of replacements.

© Scrum.com

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