Barbarians: RFU bans 13 players over coronavirus breaches

General view of an England training session at Twickenham
The match was due to take place at Twickenham in October

Thirteen Barbarians players have been given bans by the Rugby Football Union for their part in October's game against England having to be cancelled.

The players breached coronavirus protocols and the cancellation of the match cost the RFU about £500,00 in lost broadcast and sponsorship revenue.

All players accepted the charges.

Chris Robshaw, Alex Lewington, Fergus McFadden, Juan Pablo Socino, Richard Wigglesworth and Jackson Wray will all serve four-week suspensions.

They were all part of a group who left the team "bubble" twice and were found to have misled the investigation.

They were initially given 10-week bans, but those were reduced to five weeks "as a result of their timely acceptance of culpability and the players' other mitigation", of which three are suspended subject to there being no further off-field offending by the players for one year.

Lewington, Robshaw, Wigglesworth and Wray must also conduct 50 hours of unpaid rugby community work, while that figure is 60 hours for McFadden and Socino.

However, all six received another two-week suspension for giving a false account.

All bar McFadden have also been fined two weeks' wages.

"The sanctions reflect the seriousness of the charges which include behaving in a way that ignored what the public at large and the rugby community were complying with and deliberately compromising an investigation being carried out by the RFU as swiftly as the circumstances demanded," the governing body said in a statement.

Calum Clark, Sean Maitland and Tim Swinson all received a four-week ban - three of which are suspended - Tom de Glanville, Joel Kpoku and Manu Vunipola were given three-week suspensions, and Simon Kerrod got a two-week ban.

The panel said it drew a line in the seriousness of offending between those who went out on both nights and gave a false account, those who went out only on Wednesday night and gave a false account and Kerrod, who was the only player who only went out on Tuesday night and did not provide a false account.

What happened?

The RFU has published new details of what happened during the Barbarians' training camp.

It says all players signed a code of conduct before entering the secure bubble, stipulating they should avoid public places and specifically prohibiting pubs and bars.

"The players were provided with a variety of facilities in their hotel, including a dining room and social area with pool, table tennis and other games," the RFU said. "They could drink alcohol within the Barbarian camp environment at the hotel.

"Players were also given permission to go into Hyde Park in groups of no more than three to get fresh air. They were required to provide WhatsApp notifications on departure and return."

However, on the afternoon of 20 October, Robshaw, Wigglesworth and Wray left the hotel to go for takeaway drinks from the Footman pub in Mayfair and drank them outside.

They then moved into the pub where they were joined by Kerrod, Lewington, McFadden and Socino, contrary to tier two regulations then in place in London.

The RFU's investigating panel was told the players realised it was not permitted so they "left the hotel via a fire exit" to "avoid any confrontation".

CCTV footage also showed the group returning through a fire exit, but the trip went undiscovered until the Friday.

But 12 players had also ventured out on the Wednesday.

Wray approached the Barbarians management to ask if the group could visit Sergio's restaurant, but the request was denied.

Later that day, 12 players left the team hotel and went to Hush bar in Mayfair, The Running Horse pub and Sergio's restaurant.

When asked where they had been, the players said they left the hotel to eat out at McDonald's and sat in Berkeley Square drinking takeaways.

The players issued this statement during the investigation: "We would like unequivocally to apologise to the Barbarians FC and the Rugby Football Union for our misguided and foolish actions on Wednesday evening. We bitterly regret our stupidity.

"We would like unequivocally to apologise to the RFU legal officer and lawyer for offering misleading statements during our interviews on Thursday.

"Or basic instinct, as rugby players, is to stick together and protect each otherbut, in this instance, we now realise we should have told the entire truth. As a group, together, we would now like to set down the precise sequence of events."

The statement set out the correct version of events in relation to Wednesday, but did not mention Tuesday's outing.

Barbarians president John Spencer said: "The players involved took it upon themselves to ignore those protocols and we are immensely disappointed.

"We apologise unreservedly for the behaviour of those players, who acted in this irresponsible manner. As a club, we place an enormous amount of trust in the players who join our family and come into camp.

"We are hugely disappointed these players breached that trust and put the health of the squad, the fixture against England and the reputation of this historic club at such great risk."

Saracens eight 'could not be more remorseful'

Eight of the players involved were from Saracens, who said they "made some extremely poor decisions leading to actions which were foolish and serious in nature".

A club statement added: "The players have been punished for the mistakes that they have made and they could not be more remorseful or apologetic.

"They are absolutely devastated their misguided actions led to the cancellation of the England versus Barbarians game and caused great upset amongst rugby fans, and specifically to Saracens fans who have been incredible during such a challenging year."

The club say the players "voluntarily moved swiftly to take substantial steps by way of recompense and atonement for their actions, including contributions to help cover lost wages for casual workers at Twickenham Stadium, donations to the Matt Ratana Foundation and commitment to raise significant further funds for this charity in the months ahead".

They also wrote personal letters of apology to each of the major stakeholders impacted.

The club say they imposed their own sanctions on the eight players involved, adding: "One of our club values is to care for people. It is now time for us to support our players and help them learn from their mistakes."

Banner Image Reading Around the BBC - BlueFooter - Blue

Top Stories

Elsewhere on the BBC