Clubs urge unions to sanction fixtures


Rebel clubs Cardiff and Swansea have urged rugby chiefs in England and Wales to sanction their controversial cross-border fixtures. The joint call came as English rugby found itself gripped in another crisis which could have crippling financial implications for all 14 Allied Dunbar Premiership clubs.

Rugby Football Union chairman Brian Baister will host a hastily-convened meeting of representatives of the leading sides today as fall-out continues from last week's International Rugby Board ruling.

An IRB disciplinary panel withheld a £60,000 grant to the RFU after deciding that Twickenham had not punished its top teams for playing illegal matches against Cardiff and Swansea this season.

Continued defiance of the IRB - Northampton host Cardiff and Bath visit Swansea on St Stephen's Day - could see substantial six-figure fines imposed next summer, which Baister has indicated would be paid by clubs rather than the RFU.

"We will write to our clubs pointing out that if the fixtures with Cardiff and Swansea continue, then there is a likelihood of further penalties being imposed on us next August," Baister said.

Should Baister's warning be heeded and the plug is effectively pulled on Cardiff and Swansea, it would leave both clubs facing an uncertain future just four months after quitting the Welsh Premier Division.

The WRU have fined Cardiff and Swansea £150,000 each for offences related to playing the friendly matches, a decision which did not appease the IRB when WRU chairman Glanmor Griffiths and secretary Dennis Gethin appeared before them last Friday.

"The problem at the moment is that the IRB can object to these games because they are not approved by the WRU or RFU," said Swansea chairman Geoff Atherton.

"If they gave their blessing, then the matches would have a legitimacy and the IRB would not need to be involved."

Cardiff chief executive Gareth Davies added: "The charge is that Cardiff and Swansea have breached regulations by playing against the English clubs against the wishes of the WRU.

"Well, if the WRU opts to sanction those matches, their problems are over because then we would not be in breach of anybody's regulations."