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Gareth Thomas MP

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RFU Championship News Friday 25th May 2012

Gareth Thomas MP tables Early Day Motion in support of London Welsh

Issued On Behalf Of London Welsh
Friday May 25th

Gareth Thomas, MP for Harrow West, yesterday tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons in support of London Welsh’s bid for promotion to the Aviva Premiership, should the club win the Championship.

This was in response to the decision by the Rugby Football Union, announced on Wednesday (May 23), that the club had failed to meet the Minimum Standards Criteria (MSC).

Full transcript below.

• Session: 2012-13
• Date tabled: 24.05.2012
• Primary sponsor: Thomas, Gareth (Harrow West)
• Sponsors:

That this House condemns the decision of the Rugby Football Union to reject the possibility of London Welsh RFC gaining promotion to and playing in the Premiership in 2012-13; notes the huge contribution London Welsh has made to both league and international rugby throughout its history; further notes the determination of the Board of London Welsh to continue to develop both the performance and commercial sides of the club; and urges the Rugby Football Union to reconsider its decision.

And Gareth’s speech in the House of Commons yesterday:

My final point is very different and concerns London Welsh rugby football club’s application to join rugby’s premiership. As Members will recognise, I have some Welsh roots and a number of my constituents, like me, enjoy cheering on London Welsh. For the first time in the history of the rugby championship in the UK, London Welsh has got through to the play-off final and it submitted its bid to the Rugby Football Union to be considered for a place in the premiership should it win. Yesterday, before the first leg of that play-off final was due to take place, the RFU published the results of its investigation into London Welsh’s bid and rejected it out of hand. Proper reasons have not yet been given for the decision, but if media reports are to be believed it appears that the application was rejected because London Welsh does not have its own ground that meets premiership standards. As London Welsh spokespeople have pointed out to the media, a series of premiership teams are already in that category, notably Saracens.

Mr MacShane: I wish my hon. Friend all the best, but frankly the men in blazers and those bright pink and orange corduroy trousers who control the RFU will not give any consideration to the passion of London Welsh, its players and its supporters. We experienced that in Rotherham when we got into the premier league and were then booted out. We had a wonderful ground and people could get right down to the touchline to watch the rugby. It is much better than sitting up in a big stadium, but those gentlemen of a particular class are the worst administrators of any of our major games. I wish my hon. Friend well, but he ain’t going to get going until they change their corduroy trousers.

Mr Thomas: I am a huge supporter of my right hon. Friend on most things, as he knows, but I hope that on this occasion he will allow me to take a slightly more temperate view of the Rugby Football Union. In general, I think it does a good job and I hope that it will reconsider London Welsh’s application.

Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): As the Member of Parliament for Rugby and someone with great enthusiasm for the game of rugby, may I tell the hon. Gentleman that true rugby fans across the country will have enormous sympathy with the case he is making? The teams that do well deserve the right to be promoted.

24 May 2012 : Column 1338

Mr Thomas: I am grateful for the support of the hon. Gentleman and, I think, the support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr MacShane) for this great cause.

London Welsh players responded in the best way possible to the news last night when they won the away leg at the Cornish Pirates’ ground 37 points to 21. We take a 16-point lead into the home game at the Oxford Kassam stadium next Wednesday evening. I hope that members of the RFU board will come to that stadium to see just how well that ground could house premiership rugby next year.

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way and I note that the fourth issue he has addressed, rugby, has attracted a lot more interest in the Chamber than the previous three. I endorse the comments that we have just heard about the quality of administration in the RFU. If he or his club would like to come to the rugby league to see an example of fine administration they should do that.

Let me make a serious point about London Welsh, which I think would be replacing Newcastle in the premiership. I have nothing at all against London Welsh, but it would be a pity if the whole of the rugby union premiership became dominated by teams from the south and did not include fine teams such as Rotherham and Newcastle, which have dropped out of that league.

Mr Thomas: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the need for rugby union to have a very diverse base across the country. I certainly hope that when Newcastle takes its place in the championship, as I hope it will, it continues to benefit from the RFU’s support and largesse so that it can have a genuine chance of winning a place back in the premiership. Nevertheless, we have to allow proper promotion and relegation to take place. I do not think London Welsh has been properly treated thus far. I raise this issue in the House today because I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House might encourage the Minister for Sport and the Olympics to use his influence to encourage the RFU to publish the full details of its assessment and how it reached the decision to reject London Welsh’s application for the premiership, so that London Welsh has all the facts in front of it as it prepares its case for appeal.