More bloodshed looms for Quins
August 26, 2009
The conduct of Quins chief executive Mark Evans and the club's chairman Charles Jillings is now coming under scrutiny © Getty Images
'Bloodgate' is now over. 'Quinsgate' is the new and even bigger scandal.
Just like Watergate the original crime was bad but not so heinous that it looked like ending with total meltdown. It was the botched attempts at a cover-up that destroyed the reputations and careers of everybody involved in the Washington break-in and eventually led to the resignation of disgraced President, Richard Nixon.
Quinsgate is heading in the same direction. Bloodgate has already ruined two careers but Quinsgate could yet claim the scalps of chief executive, Mark Evans, and Chairman, Charles Jillings, after the publication of the full text of Tom Williams' 'full disclosure' when he appealed against the original sentence handed down by the ERC disciplinary committee.
In a worst case scenario it could also be the end of Harlequins. In his attempt to persuade Williams to appeal "on a limited basis focusing on the sanctions and not the findings of fact," Evans apparently told the player's lawyers that full disclosure would result in loss of sponsors, the playing budget would be reduced by £2 million, redundancies and relegation.
"I understand that Mark then said this would be my responsibility," added Williams. That, and the revelations about sweeteners offered by Jillings take all the accusations to another level.
It is possible that Dr Wendy Chapman could also be in trouble with her own medical disciplinary body after the revelations that she cut Williams' mouth in an attempt to authenticate the deception.
On a business front Quins have been one of the most successful clubs in the Premiership in the last few years. Five years ago they averaged around 5,000 spectators for a home game but they were selling-out with crowds of around 12,000 for most home games last season and are in the process of building a new stand to increase that capacity for the coming campaign.
They also have some of the best blue chip sponsors in rugby and have been very successful at selling corporate packages at top prices to some of the big names in the City of London.
They have even started their own hospitality company, Sporting Class, which has been so successful it has branched out into other sports and has contributed significantly to their bottom line.
All that is now in jeopardy and they will be alarmed by the latest words from the RFU's Honorary Disciplinary Officer, Judge Jeff Blackett. Having decided there was no point in pursuing four other cases where blood capsules had been used, he might be forced to bring new charges following these latest revelations.
"On these new allegations, difficult though it might be, we must have the full information before we decide on the next steps," he said with great caution but his words will still have frightened Harlequins.
Quins could find themselves faced with further misconduct charges and if found guilty their penalty will inevitably include a massive fine and probably playing sanctions as well - all in addition to the ERC penalties which could still be increased.
Just like the Watergate burglars how they must wish they had owned up and taken their punishment instead of trying to conceal the original crime.
I am sure that one of the reasons Judge Blackett decided it was not worth pursuing the other blood capsule charges was because it was obvious Quins were not alone in using them. All the evidence points to widespread abuse of the rules relating to blood replacements and it was hoped that the already tough sentences meted out would prove a cast iron deterrent in future - no physio or coach would be prepared to put their careers on the line after what happened to Steph Brennan and Dean Richards.
Premiership Rugby is even talking of putting in place a protocol which should eradicate the problem before the start of the new season. Every team now travels with a doctor so the medic from the opposing side has to examine and ratify any blood injury - just as the Leinster doctor was prevented from doing in that fateful Heineken Cup match. No extra expense - job done. It should have been there from the start.
But it might all be too late for Quins. First they need a lenient sentence from the judge and then they will need enormous loyalty from their fans. Otherwise, it could be the end.
OK, the crime was disgraceful but it hardly merits a death penalty.
John Taylor is a former Wales and British & Irish Lions international and a regular contributor to Scrum.com