RFU throws the book at BaaBaas bad boys
BREAKING NEWS: Thirteen Barbarians players have been charged with conduct prejudicial to the interests of the union or the game.
The Rugby Football Union announced on Thursday that they are taking action against the bad boys of the game.
This follows breaches of COVID-19 health protocols that resulted in the cancellation of last week’s match against England at Twickenham.
The RFU, England’s governing body, declined to name the players until an online disciplinary hearing, chaired by senior lawyer Philip Evans, had been concluded.
The players will face a range of charges including individual breaches of the protocols – such as leaving the hotel without permission or without informing organisers of their whereabouts – and providing false statements during an investigation.
Former England captain Chris Robshaw, his former Red Rose teammate Richard Wigglesworth and Scotland wing Sean Maitland were among those involved in the unauthorised nights out near the team’s central London hotel last week.
Footage on social media published over the weekend showed a group of players from the invitational side, including Robshaw, taking part in a drinking session at a pub.
The RFU said there was no limit to the available punishments under a disrepute charge, with fines and match bans among the possible sanctions.
And it added the players identities would be made known when the hearing, for which no start date has yet been given, had finished.
“The RFU recognises the pressure public scrutiny is placing on the players and therefore it will publish players’ names, full judgements and sanctions after the hearings have concluded,” a statement read.
London’s Metropolitan Police Force said Tuesday it would not be taking action against the players as it “does not investigate COVID breaches retrospectively unless they are the most dangerous and flagrant breaches of the regulations”.
Cancellation deprived the RFU of some £1-million (US$1.3 million) in lost broadcast income and sponsorship revenue at a time when the governing body has taken a huge financial hit from COVID-19.
It also scuppered England’s plan for a warm-up match ahead of their virus-delayed Six Nations finale away to Italy on Saturday, where victory could be enough to give Eddie Jones’s men the title.
But the England coach, speaking Monday, said Robshaw should be spared a torrent of abuse.
“Chris is a good young man. He’s served his country well – let’s make sure we don’t take it out on him too badly,” Jones told said.
Former Harlequins back row Robshaw apologised via social media on Friday, saying he had been “irresponsible” and was “sincerely remorseful”.
* Meanwhile the RFU announced a £10.8-million (US$13.9 million) annual loss, with officials braced for more financial bad news during the next 12 months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Twickenham chiefs had already budgeted for the 2019/20 year to produce a loss due to the costs of a World Cup campaign in Japan, where England finished runners-up to South Africa, and only hosting two home games in the Six Nations.
Despite reduced revenues, the operating loss for the year of £10.8-million was not as great as the budgeted figure of £11.5-million.
Prior to COVID-19, RFU revenues were running slightly ahead of budget.
But the loss of all activity in the last quarter of the year saw the RFU finished the year with revenues £23 million behind budget, mostly driven by lost broadcast, ticketing, hospitality and conferences and events income.
Last Satuday’s English Premiership final between Exeter and Wasps at Twickenham was played behind closed doors due to the virus, with the England-Babarians fixture at ‘headquarters’ due to have been staged 24 hours later called off completely after a breaches of health protocols involving the invitational club’s players.
The RFU did receive British government support through £2-million of income from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and a £0.75-million rates holiday in respect of Twickenham Stadium, with similar assistance expected during 2020/21.
Nevertheless, RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said: “The long-term financial challenges of coronavirus are significant for the entire economy. The RFU relies on revenue from matches and events at Twickenham Stadium and re-invests this back into the game.
“With no rugby and no events, we are looking at a potential short-term impact circa £145 million in lost revenues in our ‘mid-case’ scenario.
“We also know that there will be a much longer-term effect and are projecting a four to five-year recovery, with cumulative revenue reductions of around 20 percent.”
THAT Barbarians team social featuring, Chris Robshaw, Sean Maitland and a whole lotta 🍻 pic.twitter.com/OJhN3sDsba
— Edward Barker (@EdwardB24376757) October 24, 2020