Homophobic fine is wake-up call for rugby league
Castleford acknowledge that homophobic chanting went on during the Super League game between the Tigers and the Crusaders at The Jungle on 26 March but strongly reject the Rugby Football League's ruling that they failed to act to prevent it.
They are adamant that the "evidence does not support the decision and does not in any way support the scale of the penalty" and are expected to appeal.
In the meantime, they have been warned that their fans are doing them "no favours" in their bid to retain a Super League licence.
Thomas is delighted that the RFL has taken such a strong stance - photo: Getty
The behaviour of Castleford supporters during a home defeat by the Catalans Dragons - fans threw bottles of beer and abused officials - led to a £20,000 fine last year. It was suspended but is now payable following this latest transgression.
I asked the RFL whether this latest incident will work against the Tigers when the Super League licences come up for renewal at the end of next season. The response is hardly going to soothe the ire of the West Yorkshire club towards the game's governing body.
"The behaviour of club supporters is one of our considerations in the licensing process," admits RFL spokesman John Ledger.
"It would be wrong to say Castleford getting a licence or not may hinge on this but the fans need to be aware they are doing the club no favours."
Yet this unfortunate incident poses far wider questions than that.
For a sport that prides itself on its family and equal-opportunities orientation, the story that emerged from The Jungle in March left an awfully bitter taste. The fine may not sound a lot to those who follow Premier League football millionaires but, to a sport that operates a strict £1.65m club salary cap, it isn't far off a Super League player's annual wage.
In just his second match of league since switching codes from rugby union, Crusaders wing Thomas received the type of abuse that cynics of the game feared possible for an openly gay player in a blue-collar sport. Yet anyone who knows the game knows that such abuse is very rare.
The player's silence in the immediate aftermath was dignified, as it has been this week. Thomas has ignored all media calls and has made no statement other than through his management company Distinct.
I spoke to both the player's agent, Emanuele Paladino, and the RFL at length in the hours after the fine was imposed on Tuesday, the first of its kind in rugby league. Castleford offered no further comment other than the strongly worded statement on their website.
From what I understand through our conversations, Thomas is delighted that the RFL has taken such a strong stance. The fine is irrelevant according to the player. But standing up to the homophobic bullying and chanting is vital.
I am told that Thomas believes that, in 2010, there should be no need for a gay person to have to endure what he did but he is happy to tread the path first if it makes it easier for future generations.
I was not at The Jungle on 26 March but, as a general observation, the ground is one of my favourites to visit. I also believe there is no larger a minority of idiots there than at any other ground in Super League.
It must also be noted, though, that Thomas has not had problems with the crowd at any other venues since his switch to league.
A Tigers statement describes the club this season as "one of the most pro-active in Super League when it comes to promoting a family friendly environment at the stadium, working hard all season to create an atmosphere within the stadium that is inclusive for all sections of the community".
But RFL spokesman Ledger tells me the scale of fine shows how seriously the sport's governing body views homophobia.
"Castleford and all Super League clubs need to be aware that the RFL continues to work tirelessly to make our sport available to ever member of society, regardless of age, ability, race, religion or sexual orientation.
"We pride ourselves in being a sport that's open to all but that doesn't include those who are racist, bigoted or homophobic."
Of concern to Castleford, however, will be the impact this latest case may have on their relationship with the RFL.
I shall be sitting down for an exclusive chat with Gareth Thomas this week. You will be able to see the interview on the BBC News Channel and here on the BBC Sport website.