FORMER England captain Fran Cotton has called for an emergency meeting of English rugby's administrators and for a vote of no confidence in the Rugby Football Union (RFU) council, along with the expulsion of clubs who disobey the Union's rules.
Cotton, who managed the British Lions this past year, resigned as vice-chairman of the RFU management board last month after a RFU council decision to exclude management board chairman Cliff Brittle from future discussions between the RFU and the English clubs.
Cotton warned of the severe consequences to the English game if the International Rugby Board (IRB) went ahead with a threat to expel the RFU and the 12 Premiership One clubs over a row concerning issues such as players' release by their clubs for international matches.
The IRB have ordered the RFU to attend a meeting of the board's executive committee in Dublin on May 18 to explain their position and how they plan to resolve the row.
And Cotton warned: 'Let no-one doubt that the IRB threat is very real. For the sake of the future of English rugby, I urge the clubs and counties to support me.' Cotton called on the 2,000 member clubs to rule on three issues: clubs who do not accept IRB and RFU rules should not qualify for RFU membership; players will have the right to choose whether they sign a contract with their club or the RFU; and a vote of no confidence in the RFU Council following its mishandling of RFU business, in particular matters relating to the top professional clubs.
Cotton needs 100 clubs to back him.