Wigan forward Tony Clubb has been banned for eight matches after being found guilty of using “unacceptable language based on national or ethnic origin” towards Hull FC’s Andre Savelio.
The incident took place during during last Thursday’s Betfred Super League match between the clubs, with the Hull forward later tweeting that he had been called a “stupid Polynesian ****”.
The RFL’s Match Review Panel had considered the incident a Grade F offence – the most severe grading available and one which carries a minimum punishment of eight matches.
But the chair of the independent Operational Rules Tribunal, His Honour Judge Guy Kearl QC, stated that while the language was “unacceptable”, that the panel did not find Clubb to be racist.
Kearl considered submissions from both players and clubs, the match official’s report, broadcast footage and character references.
In his judgement Kearl noted: “We have considered the evidence of both players and the circumstances surrounding the allegation and find that we are reasonably satisfied, taking into account the seriousness of the charge, that the words were said, albeit in the heat of the moment, but nevertheless were said.
“They do constitute unacceptable language based on [a player’s] racial and ethnic origin and therefore we find that this was serious misconduct which has brought the game into disrepute.
“On the other hand we have considered the character references placed before us by Wigan Warriors from those who know [Tony Clubb] well at the club. We do not find that he is a racist, simply that on this occasion he used unacceptable language in the heat of the moment.
“We have therefore reduced the penalty to take account of his character and good disciplinary record to a suspension for eight matches and a £500 fine.”