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In Conversation with Tom Williams

In October 2019 we welcomed former Harlequins rugby player, Tom Williams, to the Academy in conversation with Partner, Annabel Thomas.

10 years on from one of rugby’s most well-known scandals, Tom shared his involvement in the Bloodgate scandal where he was accused of faking a blood injury using a blood capsule and a scalpel. Tom talked through how the situation unfolded on the day and how this impacted his career, his approach when he returned to the club as a coach, and his future plans.

Annabel Thomas
Partner Mishcon de Reya
Today’s event was former Rugby Union player Tom Williams coming in to talk to us about the blood gate scandal ten years ago.

Tom Williams
Ex-Harlequins player
I was on the bench for that game.  Standing there as I run on to the pitch Dean Richard says, tell Steph you’re coming off the blood.  It doesn’t even cross my mind to question it.  So I ran on the pitch, I told Steph Brennan, he brings over a blood capsule, put it in my sock.  I am red/green colour blind so when it falls out of my mouth onto the floor I am sort of scrabbling around a little bit for this blood capsule, I mean it is preposterous, it’s ridiculous, before we came off the field and into the changing rooms and it was in that room that I pressurised the doctor to cut my lip.  The first disciplinary was that the Harlequins got nothing, Dean Richards got nothing, the physio got nothing and the doctor got nothing but I got a year’s ban.

I want to tell my story because I feel there are huge amounts of learnings that can be had from it, particularly for young people in roles where they can potentially be vulnerable to influence.

And Harlequins they were pushing me to continue the lie, they were saying to me – look we’ll pay some of your mortgage, we’ll pay for you to go on a trip round the world and have a sabbatical, we’ll guarantee you future employment post your ban.

Annabel Thomas
Partner Mishcon de Reya
Tom Williams’s story is important because it concerns making really difficult decisions under pressure and that’s something as lawyers we do as well.  There are a lot of parallels, we are not professional sports people but sometimes we are put in a similar situation.

How does it feel for you when the truth was out there causing turmoil?

Tom Williams
Ex-Harlequins player
It was horrendous in many ways because I knew the impact it would have on Wendy and Steph but I can sleep sound at night.  We eventually did the right thing.

Annabel Thomas
Partner Mishcon de Reya
For me the most interesting thing that Tom talked about was the culture of coercive leadership and how that takes away the autonomy of the individual to make those decisions and to question what they are being told.

Tom Williams
Ex-Harlequins player
We’ve always got a choice and that choice may not be, you may be around the proverbial between a rock and a hard place and neither choice being that preferable and when you are presented with that you know, that opportunity you’ve got to try and look beyond what’s good for an industry, what’s good for you as a person and you’ve got to look towards what is actually just right and what is wrong.

Mishcon Academy

Mishcon de Reya
It’s business.  But it’s personal.

In October 2019 we welcomed former Harlequins rugby player, Tom Williams, to the Academy in conversation with Partner, Annabel Thomas.