Wales

London Welsh RFC 'fraud': RFU changes rules

English rugby chiefs have confirmed they have strengthened their regulations on club finances following allegations of forgery and fraud in the sale of London Welsh Rugby Football Club.

The Rugby Football Union told BBC Wales' Week In Week Out programme that they tightened their procedures in the wake of financial problems at the famous West London club.

Talking publicly for the first time about the allegations against him, Neil Hollinshead, the former owner of London Welsh, claims he was let down by others after promising £2.6m would be invested in a link up with a Saudi Arabian prince.

The money, promised in 2009, never appeared and a club best known for providing many of the stars of the 1970s became involved in a bitter battle for control.

According to John Taylor, former Wales and London Welsh player, and managing director of the club: "The excuses started to wear thin within a couple of months ...then it's fair to say that we became very worried and by the end of the year we discovered the worst.

"We had to take action ...and it became evident that he had no money to put into London Welsh and he was ordered to rescind the deal."

In June 2009, when London Welsh was facing financial difficulties, it was placed into administration.

Businessman Neil Hollinshead, and his company Saudex Global, emerged with a multi-million pound offer of investment and the club was saved.

Mr Hollinshead gained ownership of the club, but after several months of waiting the money he had promised failed to materialise.

Officials at the club took legal action to regain control of the club.

Court documents obtained by Week In Week Out reveal that Neil Hollinshead is alleged to have submitted forged documents and fake bank account details in order to continue his control of London Welsh and that he repeatedly lied to ensure that ownership of London Welsh was transferred over to him.

The programme tracked down Mr Hollinshead in Dubai.

He said: "The investment in terms of the bridging money I was trying to get - I can't go into too much because there's an ongoing case in the UAE about it at the minute - but the funds were not forthcoming, and the more I chased and was promised...it was not forthcoming."

The club is now back in the hands of its previous owners, and - now in its 125th season - it is competing in the play-off stages in the English Championship.

After the financial collapse at London Welsh, and also problems at several other Championship clubs, the RFU told Week In Week Out that they have now strengthened their regulations.

An RFU spokesman said: "What we learned from that was a wider lesson and we have made changes - not to our due diligence process but to our financial governance process of clubs in that level. What we now require all clubs in that league to do is give us quarterly accounts."

One legendary player of the 1970s sees the recent problems of London Welsh as a cautionary tale for a fledgling professional sport.

Former London Welsh, Wales and Lions player Gerald Davies said: "In the long history of professional sport rugby is an infant.

"There have been teething troubles and I should fancy there will be more teething troubles for all of rugby in years to come."

Week In Week Out is broadcast on BBC One Wales on Tuesday 29 March at 2235 BST.

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