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Page last updated at 09:59 GMT, Friday, 21 May 2010 10:59 UK

Saracens and Rugby Football Union row over Venter case

By Nabil Hassan

Saracens director of rugby Brendan Venter
Venter's ban means he can have no contact with his team during the final

A row has broken out between the Rugby Football Union and Saracens over a disputed disciplinary case.

Sarries criticised the way boss Brendan Venter was handed a misconduct charge following an incident at Leicester.

The RFU blasted the Saracens management calling their criticisms "unfounded", before the club's chief executive Edward Griffiths hit back at the RFU.

"Perhaps it's time for English rugby to be run like a modern professional sport and not a rural prep school," he said.

But the outspoken Griffiths could now himself face a misconduct charge with RFU chairman Martyn Thomas due to speak to the governing body's president John Owen and chief executive Francis Baron on Friday about his comments.

"I'm personally very unhappy at what I've read and what I've heard," Thomas told BBC Radio 5 live. "Nobody is bigger than the game of rugby and we're becoming increasingly concerned at the erosion of the core principles of the game."

Director of rugby Venter received a 14-week ban on Tuesday for "making provocative and inappropriate gestures" at Leicester two weeks ago - a decision against which Sarries have now confirmed they will appeal.

As it stands the ban will prevent the South African from being at Twickenham for the final of the Guinness Premiership on 29 May, in which Saracens take on Leicester.

But BBC Sport understands the appeal is set to be heard before the season-finale next Saturday.

The RFU released an 11-page statement on Thursday, in which it observed Venter's "arrogant behaviour" during the hearing, citing his eating of biscuits and sweets as examples.

It reported: "The panel witnessed a certain disdain from Venter when he appeared at the hearing (for example by coming back to hear his sanction eating a biscuit and throwing sweet papers across the table)."

Thomas added: "You don't go into the Old Bailey eating a biscuit. You show a degree of respect to the process in the court."

The South African was cleared of another charge of pushing a female Leicester fan but Saracens were unhappy with the manner in which Venter was handed a misconduct charge by the RFU.

"It is astonishing that the RFU has brought and publicised these charges after requesting statements only from Leicester supporters and stewards and so hearing only one side of the story," added Griffiths in a statement on Tuesday.


"Brendan, a medical doctor, is rightly appalled that charges have been brought before anybody has even had the courtesy of speaking to him." Saracens also went on to ask for the process to be "revised".

The RFU dismissed the complaint, pointing out the statements they had gathered meant Venter would have faced a disciplinary hearing regardless of any counter-arguments from the Vicarage Road club.

"Any criticism that they should first have interviewed Saracens staff before deciding to lay the charge is unfounded," said Judge Jeff Blackett, the RFU's disciplinary officer, in his summary comments on Thursday.

"There was sufficient evidence from the complainant and others to provide a strong prima facie case and gathering contrary statements would not have prevented a hearing.

"In fact, by listing an early hearing, Saracens was galvanised into action to gather other statements. It was much more important to the image of the sport, and it was in both Dr Venter and the RFU's best interests, that this case was brought expeditiously.

"We are satisfied that there has been no procedural unfairness."

Why did the RFU provide biscuits if they were not to be eaten?

Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths

The RFU also called on Saracens to accept responsibility for their actions after criticising their statement.

"The response of the Saracens management to these proceedings has been very disappointing," said the RFU.

"Statements on their website criticising these proceedings do the club no credit.

"Their staff were clearly involved in some unpleasant events on 8 May which could have led to significant crowd trouble, but they have sought to lay blame elsewhere.

"All clubs have a responsibility to maintain the core values of the game and to ensure their staff's conduct is exemplary.

"On this occasion Saracens should have done more to ensure better behaviour amongst their own staff and to reprimand them for their poor behaviour afterwards."

Venter was cleared of allegedly striking the female Leicester supporter after it was deemed that he had accidentally struck her whilst gesticulating at what was happening on the pitch.

But Saracens posted a further statement on Wednesday expressing their surprise at the length of Venter's ban.

"This kind of public attack on a leading club does the RFU no credit at all," added Griffiths in a statement on Thursday.

"We find ourselves in a ludicrous situation where Brendan Venter, our director of rugby, has been banned from attending the Premiership final because, during our recent match at Leicester, he was given a seat with a restricted view... he stood to follow the play... he was shouted down and abused by home supporters... in response, he did not swear at anybody and did not make any obscene gestures.

"Blackett's judgement borders on self-parody, citing Venter eating a biscuit as alleged evidence of disdain for the process. Why did the RFU provide biscuits if they were not to be eaten?"

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see also
Saracens boss Venter handed ban
18 May 10 |  English
Leicester 15-6 Bath
16 May 10 |  English
Guilty Venter has ban suspended
20 Jan 10 |  Saracens
Venter faces RFU ref blast probe
03 Jan 10 |  Saracens
Refs killing rugby, fumes Venter
02 Jan 10 |  Saracens
Saracens plan massive clear-out
25 Feb 09 |  Saracens

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Clubcall Saracens in RFU row - 17 hrs ago Love him or hate him, why you can't ignore Brendan Venter - 28 hrs ago RFU and Saracens swap insults over biscuit-munching Venter - 30 hrs ago
Portsmouth Today Saracens launch Venter ban - 32 hrs ago


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