NEIL Richardson has slammed a decision by the RFU to hand Newmarket Rugby Club a five-point deduction after the club cancelled their league match at home to Lowestoft and Yarmouth on Saturday.
The Scaltback side’s chairman has been left seething after the sport’s governing body inflicted the penalty on the club, following the call-off of the London League Division Three North East fixture due the unavailability of front row players.
With Newmarket not in a position to challenge for promotion or face the drop, things have been made worse for the club with the five-point deduction being carried over to next season.
“I’m flabbergasted, we understood and accept that there have to be penalties for clubs who fail to fulfil their fixtures but the verdict in this case seems disproportionate,” said Richardson.
“A combination of injuries, relocation and work commitments meant that, on Saturday, of the nine front row players we have, we had two available. Both were hookers and neither could be expected to safely play prop.
“Front row is a specialist position. For safety reasons, it is simply not possible to expect players without the necessary experience or training to play this position at this level. Indeed, we would leave the club open to litigation were we to do so and an injury results,” added Richardson.
“Perhaps they would have preferred us to have played the game without players of front row experience and gone to uncontested scrums after the first minute. It would have turned the game into a farce, but that may be the only option left open to clubs in the future who face same situation as ourselves.”
To add insult to injury, the club have also seen this Saturday’s National Senior Vase Knockout-Cup quarter-final clash against Medway switched from a home tie, to an away fixture.
A statement, issued by Mike Ward, Divisional Competition Administrator, for the London Leagues and South East Divisions, on behalf of the London Divisional Organising Committee and Cup Committee, said: “Your opponents, Medway RFC, will be involved in their own league match on March 26 while your players are all resting as a direct consequence of your failure to fulfil your league obligations.
“We are concerned about the effect this breach of league regulation has on the integrity of the cup competition and the benefits a rest period provide for you.
“In seeking, at least in part, to redress this unfair advantage we direct that the venue of the cup match is reversed and it will now take place at Medway RFC.”
Richardson added: “The worrying thing for me is that the situation may not be materially different on Saturday and for cup matches the regulations state that we have to have two front row replacements available.
“We are not asking for or expecting special treatment, but I do feel the league regulations should include the provision to deal with situations such as these where clubs are genuinely unable to field a front row.
“I really do wonder what the competition administrators expected of us.
“We adhered entirely with the league guidelines, which state we cannot commence a game without a front row, and notified the authorities accordingly.”