England rugby stars told to pay ‘hush money’
THE battered reputation of the Rugby Football Union took a further pounding last night after allegations that the governing body pressurised three England players during the World Cup to pay €16,800 hush money to a hotel worker in Dunedin.
James Haskell, Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley were told to pay Annabel Newton NZ$30,000 to prevent a story appearing in a national newspaper accusing them of “lewd behaviour” during an incident on Sept 9 in one of the players’ bedrooms in the team hotel in Dunedin.
The three players refused to pay the money, having already apologised to Newton, and insisting they were guilty of nothing more than light-hearted banter.
A story appeared the day after England’s victory over Scotland in Auckland on Oct 1.
When the players returned home Haskell and Ashton were warned about their future conduct and fined £5,000 at a hearing led by elite director of rugby Rob Andrew, suspended until Dec 2012. Hartley was exonerated.
Yet it is understood that despite the fact that the players protested their innocence, and claimed to have video evidence to prove it, the RFU engaged with negotiations with Newton’s lawyer after the apology was not deemed good enough.