He was a Fylde committeeman, he was immaculately turned out in blazer and club tie and he stood in the car park at Dudley Kingswinford last Saturday and he broke off from a general diatribe against the ill-governance of rugby football to remind me of the eternal verities.

"There are three," he said. "There's death, there's taxes and there's the absolute certainty that Harlequins will never be relegated."

I played golf with Jan Webster the following day and mentioned the Fylde man's peroration. And Webster reckoned that he was wrong.

The principle of the best team going up and the worst team coming down was fundamental to the integrity of sport, not just rugby, he opined and natural justice would prevail. We shall see in the next week or two.

Fundamentals of the integrity of rugby have been distorted in the past, which is putting it mildly. Statutes, notably the one still, I believe, on the table to the effect that two First Division clubs shall be promoted each year and two Premiership clubs relegated, have been ignored.

Some years, no First Division clubs have been promoted. Some years, no Premiership clubs have come down.

The sanctity of rules is negotiable. So we shrug and get on with the game as best we can. Until we look at what goes on below the Premiership.

In League Three (North) for instance from which Rugby Lions have just been evicted with a thump. No shifting of goalposts here. Rules are rules - with a vengeance.

In rugby terms, Rugby did not finish this season in a relegation spot. So why are they going down? Because late one Friday night, a player dropped out of their fixture with Bedford Athletic and in rather a hurry a new one was drafted in. To sit on the bench.

And with three or four minutes to go, with the match well won (the Lions were 30-odd points up at the time), they sent on the new man as a replacement and the world did not move.

Not until Monday. On Monday, Rugby realised that Scott Glendenning-Fenton, the new man, who had simply run onto the pitch and then run off it, was central to a technical infringement. He is an Australian and the club already had two overseas players in their team.

Now Bedford, whose fourth official had checked the team sheet before the kick off, did not know this and it is possible that the matter could have forgotten within days. But Rugby contacted the authorities and confessed their utterly trivial oversight.

And down came the proverbial ton of bricks and on the strength of the five points that the Lions forfeited, they have lost their place in the National Leagues.

Argue, as you can, for the importance of law and order, trot out the saw about rules and anarchy and, of course, there must be responsible government. But let's hear a word for morality and common sense.

In this context: a side who finish last in the Premiership stay up and a side three divisions below, who have won enough games to keep their place, go down. There is sadness at Webb Ellis Road, and elsewhere, that a club as venerable as Rugby, who were in the top division of all not 20 years ago, now find themselves in the regional leagues.

The club have been through many a travail in the years since and distractions off the pitch have had a ruinous effect on their fortunes on it. But they have battled on, drawing such inspiration as they could from Mal Malik, their totem and most industrious worker.

Malik is still there today; this is just another haemorrhage to him. Since he was suspended from holding official office 18 months ago as the result of an investigation into the use of an allocation of Sports Match cash (another technical cock-up), what he does now, in his words, is "help with the coaching."

An outrageous euphemism, that. Malik has had this old club in his blood since he watched and played for them as a schoolboy 40 years ago.

His suspension is just about up and he can become an official official again and what, may we ask, will he be? "Whatever the club ask me to be," he replied.

The Lions might be short on status just now but they have a structure, they have a squad and they have the conviction that they'll soon return to the National Leagues.

"This is a sad day for Rugby Lions," said Malik. "But we will be back."