An independent appeal panel ruled that London Welsh rugby club should be promoted to the Premiership.
The Rugby Football Union (“RFU”) had decided that London Welsh, who won the 2011/12 Championship, were not eligible to be promoted to the Premiership because their arrangements with the Kassam Stadium in Oxford did not give them “Primacy of Tenure” (freedom to schedule matches to meet the requirements of the league and of broadcasters). This decision meant that Newcastle Falcons, who had finished last in the Premiership, would not be relegated to the Championship. London Welsh appealed on the basis that the Primacy of Tenure requirement infringed competition law and was therefore void.
London Welsh’s argument was accepted by the independent appeal panel, consisting of three QCs. The panel ruled that “the Primacy of Tenure rule gave rise to an unjustified distortion of competition, contrary to EU and UK competition law. While the rule included exemptions for three particular Premiership clubs… there was insufficient justification for the narrowness of that exemption and its restrictive effect on aspirant Championship clubs”. London Welsh’s appeal against the RFU’s decision to refuse them promotion to the Premiership was therefore allowed.
Thomas de la Mare QC and Tom Richards appeared for London Welsh.
Andrew Green QC and Mark Vinall appeared for the RFU.
Adam Lewis QC and Paul Luckhurst appeared for Newcastle Falcons.
Ian Mill QC was one of the members of the appeal panel.