London Welsh have lost their appeal against a five-point penalty for fielding an ineligible player.
The Aviva Premiership strugglers were hoping for a reprieve after the initial deduction, but were turned down by a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel earlier today.
A £15,000 fine also remains, but a suspended five-point penalty scheduled for next season has been removed.
"The independent Appeal Panel accepts that the circumstances of this case are quite exceptional,”” said Gareth Rees QC, Chairman of the Independent Appeal Panel, in a statement on the RFU website.
“However, we have to mark this serious breach with a points deduction and, although we have allowed the appeal in respect of the five points which were suspended, we must acknowledge the impact on the integrity of the game and deduct five Premiership points with immediate effect."
The charge relates to appearances made by scrum-half Tyson Keats, who played 10 games for London Welsh after former manager Mike Scott falsified a player registration form.
Born in Christchurch, New Zealand, the form claimed Keats had instead been born in Christchurch in Dorset, England.
Scott has since been banned from Rugby Union for life by the RFU, and whilst London Welsh argued that he acted alone in this misdemeanour, they are now forced to take the penalty.
"The club is hugely disappointed by the decision of the Independent Appeal Panel,” said Exiles chief executive Tony Copsey in response to the outcome, according to BBC Sport.
"We are particularly disappointed for the players, who've given everything they can for the club, and ultimately it is they who have been punished for something completely beyond their control.
"However, there are still four games remaining in the season and the focus and efforts of the players, the coaching staff and everyone at London Welsh is now on those remaining matches."
The five-point deduction leaves London Welsh five points adrift at the bottom of the table on 18 points, with Sale moving ahead following their 14-13 win over Bath on Friday night.
London Irish are a further five points clear, and appear all-but safe ahead of the final run-in.
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