SA Rugby president Mark Alexander says club members who abuse or assault referees should expect to be banned from the game and action taken against their clubs.
This comes after two reported incidents of physical abuse during club rugby games in the Eastern Cape this year.
In March, shocking video footage emerged of a violent pitch invasion shortly after full-time in a club rugby match between Jeffreys Bay and PE Harlequins.
More recently, Sport24 reported players getting into a physical scuffle and a referee being slapped during a match between Kowie United and Swallows RFC (Makhanda) in Port Alfred.
Alexander said he would be writing to all 15 member unions of SARU, urging their disciplinary committees to take the strongest possible action against individuals and clubs under their authority who physically or verbally abused match officials or failed to adequately protect officials.
“These hot-headed thugs who physically assault officials have no place in the sport and should be banned for life from participating or attending,” said Alexander.
“We must protect our match officials – without whom there would be no sport – and the message must out go out in the strongest possible terms that such actions will not be tolerated.
“Attacks on referees are rare but when they occur provinces must not hesitate to act,” he added. “These attacks have been condemned by the relevant unions and I trust they will follow through by bringing these matters before disciplinary committees.
“I shall be repeating our message of ‘zero tolerance’ for such behaviour with our members.”
Alexander stressed that physical abuse of match officials is regarded as the most serious offence a player or official could commit.
That was reflected on World Rugby’s schedule of recommended sanctions. The entry-level sanction for a player physically abusing a match official is 24 weeks, which rises to a life ban as the maximum sanction.
“There can be no sympathy or toleration of the assailants,” said Alexander.
“There is no reason at all why anyone involved should lay a hand on a match official. If it does not happen in the most pressured environment of Test rugby, why should it happen at a club match? It must be clamped down on most severely.”
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