South East Wales

Pontypool Rugby Club challenge WRU demotion in High Court

Pontypool RFC
Image caption The club argues is has been a victim of an "abuse of power" by the WRU

Pontypool Rugby Club has opened its High Court case against the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) after its forced relegation from the top division of domestic rugby.

The club's barrister said it was the victim of an "abuse of power".

Ian Rogers said the WRU had breached its own rules over the downsized new premiership.

The WRU is to contest the claim. The hearing, expected to last three days, continues.

Pontypool RFC faces being demoted to a newly formed championship under a major restructuring of the game by the WRU.

The club claims it is the victim of an "abuse of power" by the WRU which, it claims, has allowed "third party commercial entities" to effectively buy places for other clubs.

At the High Court in London the club's lawyers are asking a senior judge, Sir Raymond Jack, to force the WRU to rethink its decision and reinstate the club to the top league.

Club owner, Frank Stanton, and other backers, have had to give a formal assurance that they will be able to cover the WRU's court costs if Pontypool loses the case.

Mr Rogers told the court that Pontypool had satisfied stadium standard criteria, obtaining an A licence, but were dropped from the planned new premiership because of other factors.

'Interpretations of rules'

That was despite other clubs missing out on the deadline to achieve an A licence standard at their stadia and then being included in the new league.

"This is a case about abuse of power by a sports governing body, which appears to consider its decisions to be in practice beyond the reach of the courts," he said.

"It agrees rules for selection of clubs for a league, which have an enormous financial and reputational impact on those clubs and the professional livelihoods they support, but then does not follow them," he added.

Mr Rogers said the WRU "adopts interpretations of rules which are absurd and plainly designed to suit the outcome it wishes to achieve".

He added there was "one rule for one group of clubs and a different rule for another".

"Having completed the selection of clubs for a competition, purportedly in accordance with agreed rules, it succumbs to pressure and offers of money from third party commercial entities, who are effectively allowed to buy places in the league for clubs that were not selected," he said.

Mr Rogers also said that after deciding on a 10-team premiership the WRU had succumbed to pressure from regional clubs, Ospreys and Scarlets, to extend the league to 12, adding Carmarthen Quins and Bridgend Ravens.

Throughout the selection and subsequent appeal process the WRU acted "unfairly, arbitrarily and capriciously" towards Pontypool, in abuse of its position, he said.

"Ultimately, the defendant abandoned league rules and its duty of fairness to the premiership clubs, because two of the most powerful and influential regional sides were offering to pay for the costs of adding their preferred clubs to the premiership," Mr Rogers added.

The WRU is contesting the club's claims.

The hearing, which is expected to last three days, continues.

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