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Leicester Tigers Women's forwards coach receives seven-match ban for match official abuse

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Luke Stratford, Leicester Tigers Women’s forwards coach has received a seven-week ban for conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game under RFU Rule 5.12.

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The incident happened in the 65th minute of the Premiership Women’s Rugby match against Bristol Bears on the 13 January, 2024. Stratford, who was acting as water carrier, approached fourth official Adam White when the alleged abuse took place. 

White subsequently completed a Match Official Abuse Report which stated: “At 64.37 following a penalty try for a deliberate knock on with no cover, where Leicester 15 was yellow carded, four replacements were made 2 per team. Bristol’s replacements went without problem. Leicester 8 and 4 were due to be replaced by 16 and 19 respectively. 

“The Leicester water carrier had informed me that Leicester 4 hadn’t left the field. 4 had not left the field and the kick off took place. I let Andy Wigley know and a penalty was issued at where the ball landed from the kick off.

“The water carrier approached me and said “why is that a penalty”. I explained that it was the team who had not left the field and therefore their responsibility, He replied “That’s a f***ing joke”. I responded “sorry, it’s your responsibility”, and he responded “you’re a f***ing joke”. 

“This was direct to me and we were less than 3 meters in distance with a clear line of sight. We had eye contact throughout. There was nobody else that these comments could have been targeted towards, as I was the only Match Official in the area.”

Stratford admitted saying “that’s a f***ing joke”, however denied saying “you’re a f***ing joke”, and said that White had misheard him and he had repeated the first phrase for a second time.

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The findings of the hearing concluded: “ The Panel found that, on the balance of probabilities, the charge against Mr Stratford was proved. Mr Stratford had said “you’re a f***ing joke” to Mr White, and had therefore committed Match Official abuse, which is conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game, contrary to RFU Rule 5.12.”

In the findings from the hearing, it was made clear that the exact words that were used were important as the first statement constituted disrespecting the authority of a Match Official, while the second would be verbal abuse of a Match Official. Given the different entry points of the two, it was decided that in order to apply the appropriate sanction in line with the guidance issued by the RFU Head of Judiciary under RFU Regulation 19.1.17 , the panel would: “Have to make findings of fact as to the exact words used.”

This was the second time Stratford had attended a panel hearing for match official abuse in his career, to which the panel for the recent offence stated that they were: “very concerned by the similarities between Mr Stratford’s conduct in the 2021 judgment and the present case. This is exactly the type of behaviour that the game is seeking to eradicate.

“The Panel gave serious consideration to a further aggravation of the sanction to reflect the repeated nature of the offending. On a fine balance, the Panel decided that it was not appropriate on this occasion. The Panel cautioned Mr Stratford that, if there was a further similar incident, another Panel may not be as lenient.”

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Stratford accepted that his behaviour was “inappropriate and unacceptable” and has received a seven-match ban. He will miss the following fixtures: 

21.01 v Sale Sharks Women 

03.02 v Gloucester-Hartpury

10.02 v Loughborough Lightning

23.02 v Trailfinders Women

03.03 v Saracens Women

13.04 v Harlequins Women

20.04 v Trailfinders Women

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Comments

2 Comments
S
Sumkunn Tsadmiova 148 days ago

What a ludicrous punishment and a total abrogation of responsibility to the game in general. You couldn’t really construct a clearer case of flagrant abuse / disrespect towards the game in general. Hugely amplified by the clear repeat of the phrase “…a f***ing joke..” (that’s/you’re is a separate issue).

With all the talk from World Rugby about cleaning up the game, in every facet, here is a clear example of a case to send a strong message about core values, referee respect etc. Instead the miscreant will miss a few matches. Yet another dreadful Rugby Union own goal…..

P
Pecos 148 days ago

Repeat offender. What a dork.

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