PONTYPOOL RFC will have to foot a £400,000 legal bill after losing its High Court bid for reinstatement to the Welsh Premiership.
Club sources told the South Wales Argus that it either faced
liquidation or the prospect of paying the huge costs back over a 25-year period.
The bill is double the club’s annual running costs but could
have been avoided if they had taken up an offer from the Welsh Rugby Union to
drop the case at the end of May.
The club decided not to and fought tooth and nail to prevent
the union from demoting them to the new National Championship.
But yesterday, senior judge Sir Raymond Jack, who ruled in
the union’s favour originally, said it would have been better for the club to
have accepted the offer.
The proposal would have meant Pontypool, champions of Wales
five times between 1972 and 1988, playing in the championship but without footing
the legal costs accrued by the union, rugby’s governing body in Wales.
Sir Raymond Jack said: “Given the outcome of the action, it
can now be said that Pontypool should have accepted the WRU’s offer of May 28
to drop hands.”
WRU lawyers estimated the costs of the case at about
£400,000, with approximately £250,000 run up by the union, which was
represented in court by a top QC.
Before last month’s hearing, the club’s backers had to give
the judge assurances that they would be able to pay the union’s fees should
they lose the case.
In a statement, the WRU said: “In making his decision the
Judge recognised that Pontypool had decided to commence high court litigation
as the means for resolving its claim.
“In defending the claim, the WRU has
sought to protect its position on costs, with the court holding that the WRU
has a duty to protect both itself and Welsh rugby.”
Lynne Neagle AM hopes the union will “see sense” and not
make Pontypool pay the potentially crippling legal bill, one which could see it
“I’m shocked and appalled at this latest development,” she
said. “It shows how far the WRU are now removed from community rugby and clubs
like Pontypool who were, after all, one of the union’s founding members.
“This will come as a body blow for friends and supporters of
the club, who were only just coming to terms with the fact that Pontypool will
not be playing Premiership rugby next season.
“I really hope that the WRU see sense, and reverse this
latest move. At the end of the day clubs like Pontypool are the lifeblood of
Welsh rugby, the WRU should be doing everything they can to support them, not
seeking to destroy them.”