George Graham was the man found guilty of accepting a huge brown paper bag full of cash from an agent – at a time when many believed the practice was an accepted perk for most managers.
Despite countless accusations since, despite claims, counter claims, and even investigations by police and the Inland Revenue, no other high profile boss has ever been found out.
So was Arsenal’s manager, whose name will always be stained by the manner of his departure from Highbury instead of gloried for his achievements there, the only one who ever did connive to collect a few extra quid as a thank you for signing a player? Or was he just the only one who got caught?
A similar question is being asked this morning about Dean Richards, Harlequins’ former Director of Rugby and the man in the middle of the “Bloodgate” scandal that has poured a huge, red stain across what was supposed to be the sport played by gentlemen.
He’s been handed a three-year ban from rugby worldwide after being found guilty of encouraging Tom Williams to fake a blood injury during a Heineken Cup game. There are even suggestions that Williams, having bitten into a blood capsule so that a specialist kicker could be brought back onto the field, was then deliberately cut with a razor blade after the game to try to cover up the offence.
It’s a shocking episode. Just imagine the furore if Sir Alex Ferguson, rather than accidentally hitting David Beckham with a football boot, had deliberately cut him! And it’s all the more astonishing and worrying because the evidence that came out during Williams’ appeal against his own original 12-month ban has detailed four previous occasions when Richards may have tried to orchestrate a similar piece of cheating.
An extra twist to the tail is that Quins’ former physio Steph Brennan, who has also been implicated in the affair and been given a two-year ban, has just been appointed as part of England’s medical team.
Of more concern is the issue that, much like Graham, Richards’ biggest crime has been to be the one who got caught.
Former-England coach Dick Best has been making claims about this sharp practice for eight years, and he has told the Daily Mail today: “These blood capsules have been used for years but Dean is the fall-guy and has taken the hit.”
“It came to my attention when there were people coming off with what looked to be serious head injuries, with blood everywhere, then playing the following Wednesday or Sunday without a problem. To me, it was pretty clear-cut.” (or not cut, as the case may be!)
In the short term Quins, who were actually leading the Guinness Premiership towards the end of last season and ultimately finished second, will be severely damaged. They are already as long as 34.0 to win the Heineken Cup this season, and anywhere between 9.4 and a lay of 20.0 to finish top of the Premiership in the regular season. Ironically, Richards old club Leicester are 3.5 favourites, and it’s hard to see anybody beyond last season’s surprise club London Irish 7.0 and Gloucester 7.4 mounting a serious challenge.
5 things you might not know about Dean Richards:
1. During his playing days, when rugby was still amateur, he was a police constable. A fearsome number eight, he won 48 caps and played in three World Cups and two Lions tours
2. He was banned for a match in 1988 for damaging the Calcutta Cup – he and Scotland’s John Jeffrey played football with it in the street following a boozy after match dinner
3. He had a 314 match playing career for Leicester Tigers, then won the Premiership four times in a row plus two Heineken Cups as their coach.
4. When he was sacked in 2004 he asked for all his memorabilia back and demanded the club rename the Dean Richards bar
5. He’ll have plenty of time now for his two favourite hobbies – riding his motorbike and grouse shooting.
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. Ã‚Â© The Sporting Exchange Limited
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