11 Mar 14
Harlequins' Academy back row, Jack Clifford is one of four newcomers named in the England Sevens squad for the next two legs of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
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Quins v L Irish
Harlequins v London Irish
London Irish (H)
29/03/2014, KO 15:00
Sat 29th Mar 14
AVIVA Premiership Rugby
L Irish 18-13 Quins
L W W L W
L Irish Form
W W W L L
On Friday 7th August, Tom Williams, through his lawyer, put forward a proposal in writing not to appeal. However, in exchange, he was seeking a four-year contract at substantially higher levels, plus an exorbitant lump sum. This I found shocking, though at the time I felt that this was out of character for Tom and his arrival at such a decision reflected the stresses that everybody was under.
Matters were moving very quickly. On the same afternoon, Friday 7th August during a Board meeting, we agreed a revised compensation offer to Tom Williams for the impact that these events had had on his career. This offer was open for 21 days, and Tom accepted it by email at 10.13 am on Saturday 8th August. This offer had absolutely no conditions attached. In my opinion this protected Tom for the wrongs caused by the Club's failure to control; for whatever appeal decision he made and whatever the outcome was. In no way did this constitute a reward or an offer for his silence.
I then addressed the position of Dean Richards whose resignation was accepted. The resignation was announced by the Board on Saturday morning, 8th August.
Earlier the same morning, (at approximately 8am), Tom rang Mark Evans who passed the phone to me. Tom was enquiring whether or not Dean's resignation was in any way linked to any action that he might make. I assured him that they were completely separate issues. I also told Tom that we, Harlequins, would accept the judgement against Harlequins and the fine, as well as releasing the details of the incident to the ERC as we now understood them. If he did not wish to disclose the details then the Club would do so on his behalf. This was confirmed in an e-mail to the ERC at approximately 9.30am.
In view of this, I expected Tom to appeal and the Club would then be able to take the lead and support him in his appeal. I thought this was a fairer route as it would shield Tom from possible difficulties with the team or fan base. After all, he was a victim of the Club's failure to control Dean Richards and I have always maintained that position.
When Tom Williams' witness statement came out it was very detailed. It became clear in the Appeal Hearing that Tom's representatives had been in talks with the ERC for several days and that the content of our meetings were being disclosed to them. I am still disturbed by the implications of those discussions and their resultant conduct.
My position changed as the week wore on. Initially, I believed that a limited appeal was the right option. The ERC disciplinary regulations make explicit provision for it when appealing against a sanction, but by Friday 7th August, I was convinced that this was not the right way forward. At that evening's meeting, we expressly did not advise Tom to follow a particular disclosure route. The two elements which remained constant throughout were: that at no time did I ask Tom Williams to lie or to drop his appeal. For me this was and never had been an option.
I am clear in my own mind that in the end I arrived at the correct decision. With hindsight my judgement can be called into question by the proximity of my suggestion of limited disclosure by Tom Williams on the one hand, and a financial package proposal on the other. My intention was that he was compensated for the damage created by our failure to control. Under no circumstances was the financial proposal a reward for silence.
During this incident I have at all times tried to steer a path that was fair to the individuals concerned whilst acknowledging the Club's failings in this matter. For the record, since 3rd August when the revelation of lying and cheating was made known to me, the Board has conducted a complete review of the Club's practices including a wide-ranging investigation of the Club's structures and responsibilities. On 10th August, I appointed an independent person to chair these investigations in order to facilitate a greater level of disclosure. A key part of this investigation was the provision of a forum enabling the players to disclose unethical practices at Harlequins and in the game at large. The RFU has agreed immunity for information arising from this process in regard to gamesmanship in the game. We have provided a summary of our findings to the RFU and will continue to fully co-operate with them.
I am very conscious that these events may not look edifying or for that matter convincing to everybody on the outside.
As Chairman I am ultimately responsible for all decisions. I have passionately supported Harlequins' development over the last ten years and am proud of our progress. I have always endeavoured to be fair in life and to work for the common good. In seeking a solution for the numerous parties involved we may have been striving to achieve something that was impossible. Even now, I am concerned about the well-being of the individuals and families caught up in these unfortunate events. We have a fabulous group of players, staff, sponsors and fans. I believe it is of paramount importance that Harlequins, at the earliest and most opportune time, should draw a line and move forward. I apologise unreservedly to all our stakeholders for inadvertently compounding the issues. The escalation of these issues in the public domain needs, I believe, a clear response. In this context I have decided to resign as Chairman and Director. Ultimately this happened under my watch and the failure to control must fall at my door.
As always, I convey to Harlequins my best wishes and will continue to be a supportive investor.
Statement from Malcolm Wall.
Following the resignation of Charles Jillings as Chairman, the Board is pleased to announce the appointment of Malcolm Wall as Chairman on an interim basis. Malcolm was previously Chairman of the club between 1997 and 2000. He has been conducting the internal review instigated by the Board following the initial ERC judgement.
' I am very sorry to takeover from Charles in these circumstances. The club has correctly admitted that there were a series of inappropriate behaviours during and following the Leinster game. Charles has decided to stand down as these events took place on his watch. However, the club owes a great deal to Charles as Chairman. He has overseen and led the investment for the development of the club and the stadium as well as the revival in playing fortunes.I hope to work with the Board and management team to build on his legacy, to put this sorry episode behind us and rebuild the reputation of the club. '