Dean Richards of Newcastle Falcons appeared before a virtual independent disciplinary panel yesterday evening (Wednesday February 23, 2022). The panel comprised Martin Picton (chair) with Gareth Graham and Philip Davies.
Richards was charged with conduct prejudicial to the interests of the union and the game contrary to RFU Rule 5.12, relating to his comments in post-match media interviews that undermined the authority and questioned the integrity of the match official following the Newcastle Falcons versus Exeter Chiefs game on February 20.
Richards received a three-week ban from any match-day involvement. He will miss the following fixtures and is also required to do a presentation to his club and a local school or grassroots club about the need for respect for match officials:
26.02 v Bath Rugby
04.03 v Harlequins
12.03 v Saracens
Panel chair, Martin Picton said: “The Panel concluded that the offence was to be dealt with as one arising from disrespect of the authority of a match official and rejected the submission that the words spoken by Dean Richards should be categorised as verbal abuse of the referee.
"The Panel, however, took the view that as a case of disrespect it was a very serious one given the number of issues raised by Mr Richards and the terms in which he expressed himself. He accepted in the hearing that the words he used were ill-considered, clumsy and expressed with a degree of anger. He expressed himself in disrespectful terms in the course of two separate interviews and he accepted that, absent the context his remarks should have had, they were capable of being misunderstood and thus damaging to the game as a whole.
"Mr Richards must have appreciated that what he said would be widely reported with the consequent potential impact on the referee and his standing in the rugby community, coupled with the importance of maintaining the core values of the game. Accordingly, the panel concluded that the case was properly regarded as one that merited a top-end sanction of six weeks.
"The panel did, however, consider that Mr Richards was entitled to the full available mitigation in the light of his acceptance of the charge, his recognition that he should not have spoken as he did as well as the fact that he intends to proffer a full apology to the referee in question.
"The result was that the panel imposed a thee-match suspension from all match-day coaching duties (meaning he can only attend as a spectator), but also directed that Mr Richards should present to the playing and non-playing members of the club on the topic of the need for respect for match officials and that he should undertake a second presentation to a school or local rugby club of his choice so as to get the same message out at a grassroots level.”