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The Bloodgate Scandal was a rugby union scandal involving the English team Harlequins in their Heineken Cup match against the Irish side Leinster on 12 April 2009. It was so called because of the use of fake blood capsules, and has been seen by some[who?] as one of the biggest scandals in rugby since professionalisation in the mid-1990s.


During the quarter final of the 2009 Heineken Cup against Leinster, Harlequins wing Tom Williams came off the field with what turned out to be a faked blood injury in order to facilitate a tactical substitution for Nick Evans to re-enter the field having gone off earlier injured. An investigation by the ERC and the RFU revealed that blood injuries had also been faked by Harlequins to enable tactical substitutions on four previous occasions. These findings resulted in a twelve-month ban for Williams (reduced to 4 months on appeal [1]), a three-year ban for former director of rugby Dean Richards and a two-year ban for physiotherapist Steph Brennan as well as a £260,000 fine for the club.[2][3] Club chairman Charles Jillings subsequently tendered his resignation[4], while club doctor Wendy Chapman was suspended by the GMC pending a disciplinary panel hearing into her cutting of Williams's lip to hide his use of the blood capsule.[5]. On 2 September 2009, it was reported that Harlequins had escaped being thrown out of the Heineken Cup following the scandal when the board of organisers European Rugby Cup (ERC) said it approved of the bans and fines already handed out.[6]

The affair was dubbed by many in the media "Bloodgate".[5] Leinster won the game 6–5, going on to win the Heineken Cup for the first time.


Mark Evans, chief executive of Harlequin FC has said:

You would be incredibly naive to think (the Bloodgate stigma) will ever disappear completely. Things like that don't. They become part of history and, like good or bad seasons, are woven into the fabric of any club.[7]

Richards resigned from his post at Harlequins over an incident in which it was acknowledged that he had orchestrated and had "central control"[8] over a fake blood injury to Tom Williams during a Heineken Cup fixture against Leinster.[9] He was given a three-year suspension from coaching as punishment.[10] The International Rugby Board (IRB) also confirmed that they would apply the ban to rugby union worldwide.[11]

Dr Chapman, the medic who cut Williams' lip, appeared before the General Medical Council charged with alleged conduct likely to bring the profession into disrepute.[12] The appearance resulted in Dr Chapman being warned but allowed to continue practising medicine.[13]


  1. ^ "Evan's appeal to the ERC" (PDF). Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  2. ^ AFP Quins escape further action in bloodgate scandal Retrieved 25 August 2009
  3. ^ Harlequins have let down all of rugby, Chris Roycroft-Davis, The Times, 18 August 2009
  4. ^ Quins chairman falls on his sword over 'Bloodgate' The Independent, 29 August 2009
  5. ^ a b 'Bloodgate' doctor is suspended BBC News, 16 September 2009
  6. ^ "Harlequins avoid ban from Europe". BBC Sport. 2 September 2009. Retrieved 2 September 2009.
  7. ^ "Bloodgate Scandal will Forever Haunt Quins". BBC Sport. 26 March 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  8. ^ Bloodgate: Dean Richards had 'central control', says judgment of ERC hearing
  9. ^ Richards resigns Harlequins post
  10. ^ Richards banned for three years
  11. ^ "Dean Richards handed worldwide ban". The Times. London. 18 August 2009. Retrieved 18 August 2009.
  12. ^ "BLOODGATE DOC: I SLICED HIS LIP OPEN". Retrieved 24 August 2010.
  13. ^ "Bloodgate doctor Wendy Chapman given warning by disciplinary panel". The Guardian. London. 1 September 2010. Retrieved 14 April 2013.

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