Aviva Premiership
Date set for London Welsh appeal
ESPN Staff
March 19, 2013

London Welsh will have their appeal against a five-point deduction for fielding an ineligible player heard in London on Thursday.

Welsh were deducted five points and fined £15,000 for playing ineligible scrum-half Tyson Keats, while their former team manager Mike Scott was banned from rugby for life at a separate hearing for fraud concerning Keats' documentation.

London Welsh chairman Bleddyn Phillips slammed the original judgement and insisted that the club, who were handed a further five point deduction suspended until the end of the 2013-14 season, were "unwitting victims of the fraudulent act" by a "rogue employee".

The points deduction saw London Welsh demoted to the bottom of the Premiership, two points adrift of Sale Sharks with five matches remaining. The ruling also criticised London Welsh for not having a professional-enough management structure in place, with no safeguards to prevent an employee from acting alone as Scott did.

The appeal will be heard at 4pm on Thursday by an independent panel of Gareth Rees QC, Jim Sturman QC and Philip Evans.

In a statement following the original hearing, Phillips said: "The club considers it an unnecessarily harsh and disproportionate sanction. The club, and indeed the RFU, was the unwitting victim of a fraudulent act which the club sought to address in the appropriate manner as soon as it became aware of it.

"It takes exception to the comment by the chairman of the panel (Jeremy) Summers that 'the matter included conduct that was dealt with by the police…' which might, by some, be taken as implying that the club itself was somehow complicit in such conduct.

"In fact, it was the club which had unearthed the fraudulent act by its former team manager, and reported it immediately to the police (and the RFU). As a result, the individual has been cautioned by the police and suspended for life from the game by Judge Jeff Blackett, who noted that this individual had dishonestly misled both the club and the RFU.

"As the misconduct hearing itself reported yesterday, this is a very sad case where discredit has been brought upon the individual concerned and the club. Any suggestion that the club had any complicity in these criminal acts would be false and unfair.

"Similarly unfair and harsh is the suggestion in the decision of the RFU Panel that the club was somehow acting intentionally in the matter and had authorised the actions of its team manager. This was clearly not the case as was recognised also in the decision yesterday of HHJ Jeff Blackett.

"Further, the club has, in the course of the season, properly and expeditiously registered a number of overseas players demonstrating it does have controls and checks in place. What it could not do was stop a deliberately fraudulent act which was concealed from it and the RFU by its former team manager.

"We can be rightly proud of the way the club, and the players and coaching staff in particular, have performed throughout the season notwithstanding the financial and operational challenges arising as a result of the club's late entrance as a newcomer into the Premiership last summer. This point was also recognised in yesterday's decision.

"We will continue to give of our best for the remaining games of the season notwithstanding the obvious impact on the morale of players and supporters alike of such a decision by the RFU Panel."

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