RFU and Saracens swap insults over biscuit-munching Venter
ENGLAND (Reuters) - The Rugby Football Union (RFU) issued a damning indictment of Saracens and their director of rugby Brendan Venter on Thursday in a written judgement of the South African's 14-week touchline ban.
Disciplinary officer Jeff Blackett's judgement censured Venter for his "disdain" in eating a biscuit and throwing sweet papers as he awaited his sentence.
The club later hit back, saying the judgement bordered on self-parody and claimed English rugby was run like "a rural prep school."
Former Springbok World Cup winning centre Venter was banned on Tuesday and forced to watch Saracens' Twickenham Premiership final against Leicester on television after being found guilty of making inappropriate gestures and comments to Leicester fans during a match at Welford Road on May 8.
He was cleared of pushing a female Leicester supporter during the fracas, but Saracens still reacted angrily to the sentence and the nature and procedure of the enquiry.
The RFU, in turn, issued its lengthy written judgement from Blackett.
"(Saracens) staff were clearly involved in some unpleasant events on May 8 which could have led to significant crowd trouble, but they have sought to lay blame elsewhere," the judgement said.
"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 attracted the ire of the Leicester fans, among whom he and his assistants were forced to sit, for blocking their view when he constantly stood up and waved his arms.
His reaction, to blow kisses and offer a sarcastic bow, did not go down well with them or Judge Blackett.
"We are disappointed that Dr Venter does not seem to understand the seriousness of this case," Blackett said.
"Knowing how the crowd was reacting he should not have waved, bowed and blown kisses before halftime and at the end of the match. He showed no sensitivity or awareness of the ethos of rugby but instead continued knowingly to provoke the crowd."
The final straw for Blackett appears to be that Venter did not give him and his committee the respect they felt they deserved.
"Witnesses spoke of his arrogant behaviour and 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) and it is important that any sanction has a salutary effect so that he modifies his behaviour in future," he said.
"If he cannot control his emotional outbursts then he is likely to come before a disciplinary panel again."
Saracens, who have a strong South African connection through their coaching and playing staff, issued their own statement where chief executive Edward Griffiths said: "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?
"Perhaps it is time for English rugby to be run like a modern professional sport, and not a rural prep school.
"It goes without saying we will appeal against Blackett's judgement."
(Editing by John Mehaffey)
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