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RUGBY UNION: London Welsh plan successful campaign in Oxford
London Welsh were beginning to plan last night on how to make a success of their move to Oxford after winning promotion to the Aviva Premiership on appeal.
In a landmark case, an independent panel overturned a decision by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) which ruled the Exiles were ineligible for promotion.
It cleared the way for the club, who have signed a binding agreement with the Kassam Stadium, to take their place in the Premiership for the first time.
And London Welsh have already turned their attention to making sure they will not just make up the numbers.
Club spokesman Damian Dolan said the club would look to the success of Exeter Chiefs, who have finished eighth and fifth since winning promotion in 2010, as a model for the Championship winners to follow.
“You have to look at teams like Exeter and Worcester, who have come up from the Championship and done well,” he said.
“Exeter have done absolutely fantastically this season, it’s not long ago that we were playing them and that’s what we aspire to do.”
London Welsh’s plans to play top -flight rugby in Oxford broke last month and they chose to stage the ‘home’ leg of their Championship play-off at the Kassam Stadium.
But despite beating Cornish Pirates 66-41 on aggregate, the plans looked in tatters when an audit by the Professional Game Board (PGB) stated the club failed to meet the minimum standards criteria, prompting the RFU board’s decision.
One of the key reasons centred on the fact that under a ground-share, London Welsh would not have complete freedom on the timing of fixtures, described as ‘primacy of tenure’.
But London Welsh appealed the move, pointing to the similar arrangements being used by London Wasps, Saracens and London Irish, who all play in the top flight while sharing with a football club.
The three QCs on the appeal panel agreed.
Their judgement read: “We upheld London Welsh’s complaint and concluded that the primacy of tenure rule gave rise to an unjustified distortion of competition, contrary to EU and UK competition law.
“While the rule included exemptions for three particular Premiership clubs, there was insufficient justification for the narrowness of that exemption and its restrictiveeffect on aspirant Championship clubs.”
The outcome will have a significant impact on the sport, with Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the RFU launching a full review of the minimum standards criteria.
Responding to the events, London Welsh, who will discover their fixtures for the new season next Wednesday, felt justice was done.
Their statement said: “It is not only a victory for London Welsh, its players, coaching staff and all its supporters but also for sport in general and the game of rugby union in particular, reinforcing the ethos and fundamental sporting ethic that the best team should receive the appropriate rewards.”
Newcastle Falcons, who finished bottom of the Premiership last season, are relegated The north-east club did not rule out legal action of their own, saying: “We are extre-mely disappointed with the decision and the representations witnessed at the appeal hearing and we will leave our options open as to where we go from here.”
Oxford United declined to comment on the decision.