Joe Marler has been suspended for two matches and fined £20,000 to be paid to a suitable equality charity in the UK after an independent judicial committee upheld a misconduct charge against the player at a hearing in London today.
A misconduct charge was brought by World Rugby against Marler in relation to a breach of Regulation 20 and the code of conduct, for comments made towards Samson Lee during the England versus Wales RBS 6 Nations match at Twickenham on 12 March. Regulation 20 and the code of conduct both cover statements that are unsporting and/or insulting and/or discriminatory by reason of race or ethnic origin, which bring or have the potential to bring the game into disrepute. The charge was admitted in its entirety by Marler and upheld by the independent judicial panel comprising Terry Willis (chair, Australia), Jean-Noël Couraud (France) and Alan Hudson (Canada). Following a full review of all the evidence, including a detailed analysis of the broadcast feed, referee microphone, statements and submissions on behalf of Marler by his representative Mark Milliken-Smith QC, and World Rugby, the committee found:
- That Marler had used unsporting and discriminatory language towards Lee
- That by his actions, Marler had breached World Rugby Regulation 20 and the code of conduct and brought the game into disrepute
- That Marler was proactive in apologising to Lee at half-time during the match and that he subsequently issued a public and unreserved apology for his comments
- That Marler is a person of good character and had no similar misconduct charges
In respect of the sanction, pursuant to Regulation 20.10.1 (c), the committee determined the breach was serious and imposed a two-match suspension, and pursuant to Regulation 20.10.1 (b) that Marler pay a fine in the form of a donation of £20,000 to a suitable equality charity in the UK. Marler is therefore free to resume playing on 18 April and he has a right of appeal within seven days of notification of the full written decision.
Unlike in cases involving foul play, decisions of misconduct cases are ordinarily reserved until the full written judgement is available given their nature and complexity. However, the committee has taken the proactive step of issuing its short-form, oral decision to provide certainty to all the parties in the interim, given that the publication of the detailed full judgement can typically take a number of weeks. World Rugby is unable to make further comment during this window. World Rugby exercised its right to take appropriate action before an independent judicial committee in the absence of such a process by Six Nations Rugby in accordance with the regulations.