Rugby league side Castleford furious over fine for homophobic abuse
Rugby league side Castleford have reacted furiously after being fined £40,000 for allowing their supporters to direct homophobic abuse at Gareth Thomas.
The abuse took place during Thomas’ second Super League appearance for the Crusaders in March.
A Rugby Football League tribunal chaired by his Honour Rodney Grant found the Tigers guilty of breaching the governing body’s Respect policy, of misconduct by their supporters and of conduct prejudicial to the interests of the sport.
However Castleford, who were fined £20,000 last year for their supporters’ misbehaviour during a home defeat by the Catalans Dragons, responded by revealing that they are taking legal advice and considering an appeal.
“To say we are disappointed and shocked is an understatement,” said their chief executive, Richard Wright. “The evidence does not support the decision and does not in any way support the scale of the penalty. We totally refute the outcome of the hearing.”
They have engaged Rod Findlay, formerly the RFL’s own legal adviser, who said: “There was some chanting on the day, we agreed this with the tribunal panel, there were three incidents lasting only a few moments, two of which were drowned out by public address announcements.
“The club condemns any person who makes or chants obscene remarks towards players or officials. But the charges against the club are not that there was chanting, they are that the club failed to take its best endeavours to prevent or stop any chanting.
“This the club refutes totally. The club has a well-established system for dealing with chanting and could not have done any more on the day.
“This season the club has been one of the most proactive in Super League when it comes to promoting a family friendly environment at the stadium, working hard all season to create an atmosphere within the stadium that is inclusive for all sections of the community.”
Half of the £40,000 fine has been suspended, but the Tigers will still have to pay £40,000 immediately because a suspended fine of £20,000 following last year’s incident – in which their supporters threw beer bottles on to the pitch and abused the match officials – will now be activated.
That will make a serious impact given the difficult financial times that the Tigers, like the majority of the Super League clubs, are currently experiencing.
That in turn offers further evidence of the RFL’s commitment to challenging homophobia and embracing diversity, after they were singled out for praise by the Stonewall charity earlier this year.
Thomas has encountered no problems in any of his eight other Super League appearances since joining the Crusaders from Cardiff in March.
From The Guardian