'Erasmus engaged in a character assassination of me'
SPOTLIGHT: Australian referee Nic Berry says his reputation has been “tarnished” forever due to Rassie Erasmus’ 62-minute video rant.
Director of Rugby Erasmus was found guilty of misconduct by an independent committee for his hour-long video critique of match officials, particularly Berry, after the first Test in the British & Irish Lions series, which the Boks lost.
Erasmus, who coached the Springboks to the 2019 Rugby World Cup title, has been banned from all rugby activity for two months after six charges of misconduct against him were upheld, World Rugby announced on Wednesday.
He’s also suspended from all match-day activities, including coaching and media engagement, until September 30, 2022. SA Rugby has been fined £20 000 (ZAR 418 000).
Erasmus, who was also told he must apologise to the officials he criticised, has indicated he will appeal the verdict, as will SA Rugby.
World Rugby released an 80-page report from the independent misconduct committee which unpacked the testimonies and the charges.
The report revealed the “distress” Berry and his family went through after the video was released.
Read Nic Berry’s statement below:
“Needless to say, the whole situation has been an extremely difficult time for my family and I. As a match official I understand that our performances will be heavily scrutinised, especially in such a prestigious tournament. However, the public attack on my integrity and character is not something that should be tolerated in any workplace.
“I considered officiating in a Lions tour comparable with that in a World Cup. The appointment is a honour which few achieve. However, due to the actions of Mr Erasmus, my family and I have endured a significant amount of distress and we will only have negative memories of the whole experience. I feel that Mr Erasmus engaged in a character assassination of me on social media.
“I have spent many years trying to build my reputation as an international referee and in the course of his video which was posted online, Mr Erasmus has caused it immeasurable damage. Though a small proportion of the rugby community will follow the outcome of this matter, and in the process obtain an accurate account of what really occurred, the wider rugby community will only be aware of me in the context of this incident. I feel that regardless of the outcome and any sanctions imposed, my reputation as a referee and person will forever be tarnished.
“Throughout Mr Erasmus’ video he makes unsubstantiated claims about the incidents that occurred in the 72hrs after the first Test match which I refereed. Throughout this whole ordeal I’ve maintained my professionalism despite being the target of an unprecedented personal attack played out in the media. The evidence attached is an accurate and detailed account of what really happened and should assist World Rugby in their judicial hearing into the matter.
“I felt that Mr Erasmus’ video brought into question my professionalism and my integrity as a match official and that there was an inference to be drawn that I was in some way cheating as an official, which is obviously completely untrue.
“My reputation throughout the rugby community has suffered immeasurably from his actions and I acknowledge that the impending investigation will likely lead to more public scrutiny and unwanted media attention. However, his actions are against everything our game stands for and I feel it’s important to take a stand against such behaviour.
“I sincerely hope that the outcome of the independent judicial hearing will set a precedent to discourage similar behaviour in the future so that no person has to experience what I have these past few weeks.”
Additional source: AAP