An RFL statement reads:
“An independent tribunal has imposed a five-match suspension on Leeds Rhinos player Zak Hardaker after finding him guilty of the Grade E charge of using verbal abuse based on sexual preference in a First Utility Super League match against Warrington Wolves at The Halliwell Jones Stadium on Friday May 30.”
Hardaker did plead guilty to the offence. He denied, however, that his remarks were directed towards a match official, and also claimed that he was unaware of the connotations of his remarks.
The tribunal disagreed with that interpretation, and they were satisfied that his remarks were aimed at the match official.
In addition to a five-match ban, Hardaker has also been fined £300. The tribunal accepted that he was not homophobic, despite his conduct, and the player also showed genuine contrition.
His guilty plea was taken into account with regard to the punishment, as was the fact that Hardaker is undertaking voluntary work within the LGBT community.