'We no longer feel able to keep quiet' - Promotion favourites Newcastle hit back

Ealing have suggested they will take legal action if Newcastle are promoted.

ENGLISH CHAMPIONSHIP CLUB Newcastle yesterday hit back at rival club Ealing’s “distasteful” suggestion of taking legal action if the Falcons are promoted into next season’s Premiership.

The remainder of the 2019/20 Championship season was cancelled by the RFU last week, with Newcastle 18 points clear at the top of the second-tier league following 15 wins from 15 games.

While the Premiership still remains only postponed, Saracens had previously had their relegation confirmed after hefty points deductions in the wake of their salary cap breaches.

newcastle-falcons-v-exeter-chiefs-gallagher-premiership-kingston-park Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards. Richard Sellers Richard Sellers

As such, it is widely expected that Newcastle will take Saracens’ place in the Premiership next season.

When cancelling the Championship and all levels of rugby below, the RFU stated that it will work through the implications of the decision – including promotions and relegations – to ensure “fair and balanced outcomes,” which the union promised to communicate by mid-April.

Ealing Trailfinders were second in the Championship, 18 points behind Newcastle, when the RFU cancelled the remainder of the season and the club yesterday stated its unwillingness to simply accept that Newcastle would be promoted.

Indeed, Ealing told The Rugby Paper in the UK that they are prepared to take legal action if Newcastle are declared the Championship winners and promoted.

“We’re taking counsel at the moment from a legal perspective as to what our position is,” said Ealing’s director of rugby, Ben Ward.

“We’ve still got to play Newcastle and we have a game in hand, which is against Yorkshire Carnegie, so while they look like they’re far ahead of us, the gap could quickly close.

“You look at what’s happening and I get this is a unique situation, but why is Premier League football saying it must preserve the integrity of their competition when we don’t?

“Premiership Rugby aren’t prepared to end their competition yet, so why are we lumping the Championship in with the community game and being told to call a halt?”

In response, Newcastle last night issued a statement expressing their disappointment at Ward’s comments.

Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards, formerly of Leicester and Harlequins, said Ealing’s words had been “distasteful.”

“At a time of national crisis we should be focusing all our attention on helping the most vulnerable, both within our own organisations and in wider society, rather than instructing legal representation,” said Richards.

“The RFU have publicly committed to a review to decide the outcome of the league, and we had intended keeping a respectful silence to avoid any suggestion of influencing this process.

“However, with Ealing actively choosing to use the front page of a national publication to dangle the possible threat of legal action against this review, we no longer feel able to keep quiet.

“Difficult decisions have to be made in these unprecedented times, when people’s lives and livelihoods are being lost. If Ealing’s primary concern is whether they can bridge the 18-point gap between our two teams to gain promotion, then that reflects very poorly on them considering everything else going on in the world right now.

“Instead of spending money on legal counsel we will be directing it to those who need it most, and while Ealing might point out that their game in hand is against the bottom club in Yorkshire Carnegie, it should be considered that we also have a home game against Yorkshire Carnegie as one of our seven remaining matches.

“We have won all 15 of our league games this season, beating every single team in the division, including a bonus-point victory away to Ealing in a match which saw them gaining no points in the standings. Our players and supporters have been outstanding all season, in a huge collective effort.

“Ealing, meanwhile, have lost two and drawn one of their 14 games in the league despite having played a game less than us, and their remaining eight fixtures would have seen them playing against the two teams who have already defeated them – ourselves and Cornish Pirates.

“We fully appreciate that having an RFU review to decide the outcome of the season is not a perfect situation, but these are not perfect times.

“Anyone with any sense of reason or fairness can see what should happen, but rather than using the pages of a national publication to discuss legal action we will just allow this process to reach a logical conclusion.

“There are more important focuses for our attention and resources at this incredibly testing time, which makes Ealing’s public position all the more distasteful.”

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