London Welsh hail appeal victory
London Welsh captain Jon Mills (left) and chairman Bleddyn Phillips with their Championship trophy
London Welsh have branded their promotion into the Aviva Premiership, following a successful appeal, as a victory for the whole of sport.
The Championship winners had been barred from going up by the Rugby Football Union after they failed to meet the minimum standards required of a Premiership club. The appeal centred on the fact they were being blocked from playing at Oxford United's Kassam Stadium despite three existing Premiership teams cohabiting with football clubs.
The appeals panel concluded the so-called 'primacy of tenure' rule was void because it broke European and UK competition laws, and the club said: "This 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."
London Welsh also made a strong play of the fact that promotion and relegation, wherever possible, should be decided on the field of play.
The verdict reached by panel chairman James Dingemans QC, Ian Mill QC and Tim Ward QC condemned Newcastle to the drop.
Newcastle, who have no provision to appeal the decision through rugby channels, kept their options open over a challenge through the courts. But the tone of the Falcons' reaction to the decision suggested they would look to rebuild in the Championship.
"We do not underestimate the competitiveness and challenges we face in the Championship but under the tutelage of Dean Richards we will have one, and only one goal - to win," the club said.
"Dean has been in this situation with Harlequins and he understands what it takes to navigate through the Championship, whilst putting together a team that will be successful with immediate effect on our return to the Aviva Premiership."
London Welsh need to step up their recruitment programme while the RFU's priority now is to instigate a review of the minimum standards criteria, or at least what is left of them.
Not for the first time in recent months, the governing bodies of elite rugby in England have been left red-faced.