Castleford Tigers are to appeal against the judgment by the Rugby Football League (RFL) Tribunal on Monday that the Club had breached operational rules with regard to homophobic chanting at the Tigers v Crusaders match on March 26th.
The tribunal was chaired by his Honour Judge Rodney Grant who criticised the club for failing to take steps to stop the homophobic chanting, for failing to identify the perpetrators, for failing to challenge the chanting and for their failure to undertake a meaningful inquiry afterwards.
On the decision to appeal, chief executive Richard Wright said: “I’d like to reiterate that Castleford Tigers is not a homophobic club. We are not appealing against the need to rid the sport of homophobic chanting; we firmly support the RFL’s Respect Policy and carry out projects in the community delivering equality and diversity values.
“The Club is one of the most robust in Super League at promoting an inclusive environment for all sections of the community and we pride ourselves on this fact. I cannot stress it more that we do not condone homophobic chanting in any situation.
“We are however appealing against the disproportion of the fine compared with the charges put forward.”
Rod Findlay, a partner at sports law specialist firm, McDaniel & Co, representing Castleford Tigers, refutes the charges:
“Just as the chanting itself was wrong, this decision is also inappropriate and a £40,000 fine is wholly disproportionate to the events.
“The DVD confirms that this was three faint, short bursts of chanting each of five seconds duration, over a period of four minutes. Two of the chants were drowned out by PA announcements and the third stopped very shortly after commencing as there was no support for it.
“This combined total of fifteen seconds of chanting late in the game from a small section of the crowd prompted only one complaint to the RFL after the match and no one complained on the day.
“Crucially the chanting was not included in the Match Commissioners report, despite the fact that the RFL pay the Match Commissioner to attend the game to check on any misconduct and specifically abusive chanting. The Match Commissioner confirmed he did not hear anything on the day, and was unaware of any chanting until seeing the media later the following week.
“All season the Club has had a process for dealing with obscene chanting and unacceptable behaviour. It has worked well in the past on the rare occasion that it has been necessary. This process includes the playing of the RFL’s respect CD over the tannoy before and during the match, a designated number to ring for supporters wishing to report incidents, which is announced before kick off at every game, and a rapid response team on hand to respond to any of these calls and any issues seen on the CCTV cameras.
“In fact the Club believes it is one of the only clubs in Super League that has such a process which was put in place at the start of the season. The stewards are briefed to be vigilant, and the system kicks in when any chanting becomes unacceptable. On the day, the chanting was not clear, and lasted only a few seconds. This is borne out by the fact that the Match Day Commissioner did not hear anything, and did not receive a single report from any officials or players. The referees report also makes no reference to any chanting. Two journalists have since come forward to register they did not hear anything. One of the RFL’s witnesses said ‘By the time I could make out what was being chanted it had ended.’
“The RFL brought the complaint despite the Match Commissioner stating that this was a match that went without incident. The Match Commissioner was supportive of Castleford Tigers’ activity on the day and in other matches at which the Match Commissioner has attended.
“However, the Match Commissioners evidence was not deemed by the Tribunal to be of any importance. It was not included in the disciplinary file; he was not invited to be involved in the investigation; and he was not called by the RFL.
“Castleford Tigers had to insist on his presence, even going to the trouble of applying for an adjournment as he was not available on the original hearing date, a fact that the club only found out by accident.
“The RFL were given other examples of chanting at the start of the investigation including homophobic chanting and chose not to investigate.
Castleford Tigers will appeal and will consider all other legal options.