Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The RFL's fine by me...

Late last year, former Wales Rugby Union International, Gareth Thomas came out as a gay man. This year, he re-entered the arena of professional sport as a player with the Rugby League side, the Celtic Crusaders.

At the time he came out, many suggested this was a brave thing to do, although some wished that he could have felt able to do so much earlier when he was still playing. Moving back into the macho environment of the 13 man code was certainly a brave move.

It was almost inevitable that references to his sexuality would be made in the stands. Indeed, a certain amount of banter is to be expected.

What shouldn't be tolerated, however, is out and out abuse. Homophobic comments - like racist and sexist sentiments - have no place in any sport. So when such things happen, they should be dealt with.

Such a thing did happen. In his second game - against Castleford Tigers there were some instances of abuse being hurled. Today, the Rugby Football League (RFL) fined the Tigers £40,000 for "unacceptable behaviour, breaching the RFL’s Respect Policy, misconduct by their supporters and of conduct prejudicial to the interests of the sport."

While the case is not yet settled - the Tigers' plan to appeal - this story is noted for the determination of the RFL to take action and take a stand. Such a strong position is to be applauded - and other sporting bodies could learn a lesson when it comes to dealing with such issues.


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