Dean Richards backs minimum criteria over Ealing promotion row

Dean Richards, who guided Harlequins and Newcastle to promotion back into the Gallagher Premiership, believes Championship winners Ealing Trailfinders must satisfy the entry criteria to be allowed into the top flight to ensure English rugby never suffers another London Welsh debacle.

The Welsh were unprepared on and off the pitch for the demands of the Premiership, lost all 18 matches, were relegated in 2015 and liquidators were appointed in December 2016. A month later it was announced that Welsh had been removed from the Championship and their results expunged. The professional section of the club disappeared forcing the Welsh to revert to an amateur operation which has shown real battling qualities to make up for lost ground as they work their way back up the English ladder.

Trailfinders have appealed against the ruling that they do not satisfy the entry criteria to become the 14th team in the Premiership next season and a decision is expected by the end of the month. Simon Orange, co-owner of Sale Sharks, has backed the Trailfinders bid on social media saying: “We should do everything we can to allow them to come up. If that means change the rules or give them time to meet the minimum standards then so be it!!!”

The minimum standards criteria required by the Rugby Football Union includes that a promoted club’s stadium must hold a minimum of 10,001 fans. In their statement the RFU said: “Ealing Trailfinders does not currently have a licensed capacity, but the ground holds approximately 5,000 with 2,115 seats.”

Richards praised Trailfinders Championship title success but takes a pragmatic view and told RugbyPass; “Winning the Championship is not as straight forward as people think. It is a tough call to finish top and you have to be a good team but there are reasons why there are minimum criteria (for promotion).

“ It is not just based around stadia and it is about academies and everything else and once those are all satisfied I would be more than happy for Ealing to go up into the Premiership. I believe the criteria are important and no one wants another London Welsh scenario where a team comes up and then the next season defaults and is nowhere to be seen.

“You need to have the right infrastructure in place, an academy and programme as well as a first team. You also have to be secure in the knowledge the club is going to be there for a little longer than just a season. London Welsh didn’t have a squad or a structure in place and weren’t financially strong enough to stay up losing every game. They had a huge history in the game and the effect of throwing everything into that one season meant it broke the club.”