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Thursday, March 31, 2011

English clubs decry Crusaders' London match

English clubs decry Crusaders' London match

Last updated 09:07 01/04/2011
 
England's rugby clubs are furious the Crusaders were allowed to use Twickenham at the weekend, saying it was a "commercial venture dressed up in charity clothing" to raise money in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake.

England's leading clubs have expressed anger at the Rugby Football Unions's decision to host the Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and Sharks in London.

British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported a meeting of the clubs two weeks ago resolved not to support the Twickenham fixture on Sunday (Monday morning NZT) but given the charitable aspect to the match - a percentage of the gate revenue was donated to the Red Cross Christchurch Earthquake fund - the clubs decided not to campaign openly against it.

However, Saracens chairman Nigel Wray subsequently criticised the match ahead of his club's game against Newcastle, which was played at the same time in London.

Attendance there was 1500 down on the same fixture last season while a crowd of 35,094 walked through the Twickenham gates.

Premiership Rugby, the clubs' representative body, is now considering taking next year's domestic showpiece club final away from Twickenham as a form of retribution.

"We felt this game was the thin end of the wedge," one leading club official told the newspaper.

"The RFU keeps saying it is our partner, particularly when it concerns the England team, and yet it then allows a game to be played at Twickenham, from a different tournament and hemisphere, on the very weekend when domestic rugby should have been given the opportunity to shine.

"Teams from Super 15 have been trying for the last three years to get a game played in London and there were other options, such as Durban and any of the other stadiums in New Zealand for this game to have been played.

"This was a commercial venture in every way, a commercial venture dressed up in charity clothing."

Another unnamed source said there was anger the clubs hadn't been properly consulted and "the fear among the clubs now is that it sets a precedent for future Super 15 games to be played in England".

The RFU hit back at the criticism, believing the clubs had lost sight of a bigger picture.

"English rugby moved heaven and earth to enable this game to go ahead because we thought it was a worthwhile cause," an RFU spokesman said.

"The idea that this was a purely a commercial venture is nonsense.

"Hosting this game at Twickenham was about English rugby showing its support for the rugby family in New Zealand and the people of Christchurch who had been affected by the earthquake.

"The match and related fund-raising will have raised over £1 million for the Red Cross Christchurch Earthquake fund and the RFU intends to donate all profit we made for hosting the game to charities in both New Zealand and Japan."

Sanzar is to conduct a review into the match and determine whether it is worth repeating. Chief executive Greg Peters wouldn't rule out the possibility of further visits to Twickenham.

"All the factors would need to be considered," he told The Guardian.

"Last week's game was a strict one-off, but in saying that we will review it to see how things went. I am not dismissing the idea of a repeat, but all the factors would need to be considered. Sunday gave us the chance to showcase our product. The north has been critical of our game in the past, but everything good about it was on show."

Sharks chief executive Brian van Zyl said his organisation would consider a return to London for "commercial and strategic reasons".

- Stuff

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