Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal has been given a €75,000 fine by the EPRC, with another €25,000 suspended and his club threatened with a five point deduction over his bizarre comments made in the wake of Mathieu Bastareaud’s punishment for allegedly using homophobic language.
France international Bastareaud was given a three-week ban after he was alleged to have directed a homophobic slur towards Benetton Treviso lock Sebastian Negri.
Between Bastareaud’s charge and punishment, Boudjellal gave an interview in which he expressed concern about the “Mormon side of the EPCR [European Professional Club Rugby] with the Welsh and Irish”.
Boudjellal suggested that Bastareaud would be punished by people lacking in moral standards, prompting an investigation by the EPCR.
In a statement on Tuesday the EPRC said “An independent Disciplinary Committee made up of Chairman, Philip Evans QC (England), Dan White (England) and Jean-Noël Couraud (France), convened in London on 4 July 2018 under EPCR’s Disciplinary Rules to hear misconduct complaints against the RC Toulon President, Mourad Boudjellal, and RC Toulon, related to comments made by Mr Boudjellal to the media during January and February 2018.
Following the European Rugby Champions Cup, Round 5 match between RC Toulon and Benetton Rugby on 14 January 2018, Mr Boudjellal made comments that (among other things) allegedly condoned homophobic conduct, discriminated against and insulted various groups, and brought the game of rugby into disrepute by attacking, disparaging and criticising EPCR.
EPCR brought misconduct complaints in respect of those comments against Mr Boudjellal and RC Toulon (the complaints against RC Toulon were based on its overall responsibility for the actions of Mr Boudjellal and its failure to control those actions).
The independent Disciplinary Committee upheld the complaints against Mr Boudjellal and RC Toulon in their entirety, ruling (among other things) that Mr Boudjellal’s comments discriminated against and insulted a number of different groups and that they brought the game of rugby into disrepute.
The independent Disciplinary Committee considered the misconduct to have been very serious and determined that both Mr Boudjellal and RC Toulon should receive a significant sanction. The Committee also concluded that there were several aggravating factors, including poor disciplinary records and poor conduct during the disciplinary process, and that these increased the severity of the sanctions imposed.
That poor conduct included ignoring directions made by the independent Disciplinary Committee and responding derisively to requests from the Committee for information.
To reflect the seriousness of the misconduct, the independent Disciplinary Committee determined that (a) Mr Boudjellal be fined €75,000 (payable immediately), with a further €25,000 fine suspended for three years for any similar offending or misconduct by Mr Boudjellal in any rugby jurisdiction, and (b) RC Toulon be subject to a deduction of five match points when competing in EPCR tournaments, suspended for three seasons for any similar offending or misconduct by the club or any of its representatives in any rugby jurisdiction.
The independent Disciplinary Committee stated in its written decision that: “We had a responsibility to pass a sanction which properly marks rugby’s disapproval of the use, or condoning of the use, of any remark which is discriminatory or insulting. Such remarks only undermine the confidence and the desire of the majority of those involved in rugby to promote an entirely inclusive and diverse game … We considered this case to be a very serious example of offending of this type.”
Mr Boudjellal and RC Toulon, who both chose not to attend the hearing, have also been ordered to pay EPCR’s costs.
Mr Boudjellal, RC Toulon and EPCR have the right to appeal the decisions.
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