The RFU have announced a series of suspensions and heavy fines following an investigation into the 13 Barbarians players who broke coronavirus protocols and forced the cancellation of the October 25 fixture against England. The Barbarians’ meeting with England at Twickenham was cancelled after a number of Barbarians players went out socialising in the week leading up to the game, leading to concerns surrounding the health risk to other players and management in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Thirteen players were subject to an online hearing after being charged by the RFU, including charges of misleading the subsequent investigation into the incident.
A number of Barbarians players were pictured drinking in a London pub on the Tuesday before the game, while in a separate incident on Wednesday, another group of players broke protocol by visiting two bars and a restaurant, breaking the UK Government’s coronavirus restrictions in doing so.
The RFU’s investigation found that the players involved had behaved “in a way that ignored what the public at large and the Rugby community were complying with”, adding that they were guilty of “deliberately compromising an investigation being carried out by the RFU as swiftly as the circumstances demanded.”
An RFU statement today names the 13 players involved as Alex Lewington, Fergus McFadden, Juan Pablo Socino, Chris Robshaw, Richard Wigglesworth, Jackson Wray, Calum Clark, Sean Maitland, Tim Swinson, Tom de Glanville, Joel Kpoku, Manu Vunipola and Simon Kerrod.
All 13 players have accepted the charges and the independent panel has determined a range of sanctions according to the severity of the breaches.
An RFU statement read: “The total charges across 13 players are 85 weeks of match bans; 44 weeks suspended subject to conditions being met and 41 weeks of bans to be taken concurrently; players have been fined a total of 18.5 weeks salary and given a total of 630 hours of community service.”
Before joining the Barbarians camp all of the players involved had signed a code of conduct which specifically included avoiding bars and public houses, and had been ordered not to leave the team hotel unless they had received special authorisation to do so. The panel was told the players knew they were breaching the code of conduct and had left the hotel via a fire exit in order to “avoid any confrontation.”
In handing out the sanctions, the RFU have separated the offending players into four different groups.
Group one includes Lewington, Robshaw, Wray and Wigglesworth, who were all found to have went out on both the Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. As a result they have been ordered to conduct 50 hours of unpaid rugby community work to be completed before the 19 October 2021. Socino and McFadden, who were also out on both evenings, will conduct 60 hours of unpaid rugby community work.
Calum Clark, Sean Maitland and Tim Swinson were listed in group two as ‘Older and more experienced players who went out only on the Wednesday evening and then gave a false account.’ All three have been fined 1.5 week’s wages, reduced from 3 weeks as a result of their mitigation, along with a four week suspension, three of which will be suspended subject to their future conduct and the completion of unpaid community work.
Kpoku, Vunipola and Tom de Glanville are in group three, ‘Younger players who can be distinguished in terms of the seriousness of their offending because of their age and their position within the group.’ They have been fined one week’ wages and suspended for three weeks, with all three weeks suspended subject to their future conduct and the completion of unpaid community work.
Kerrod is the only player listed in group four, and was found to have “Went out but only on the Tuesday evening; he did not provide a false account.” He has been handed a two-week suspension and fined one week’s wages.
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