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Anthony Watson given suspended one-week ban for tweet criticising referee

Anthony Watson given suspended one-week ban for tweet criticising referee

  • Bath wing reprimanded by RFU for tweet about Ian Tempest
  • Watson must also give social media presentation to teammates

Anthony Watson has been reprimanded by a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel for conduct prejudicial to the interest of the game after comments made on social media criticising a match official.

The Bath and England wing has been given a one-week suspended ban for a tweet he posted last month, hitting out at the decision by the referee Ian Tempest to send off his teammate Mike Williams in Bath’s defeat by Wasps.

Watson is currently sidelined with a long-term knee injury – which led the disciplinary panel to suspend his sentence until the end of next season – but the RFU’s insistence that he had “disrespected” Tempest’s authority sends a clear message, hot on the heels of World Rugby’s punishment of Rassie Erasmus following his outburst at match officials.

Williams was sent off in the 47th minute of Wasps’ 27-17 victory for a dangerous clear-out on Jimmy Gopperth. The forward was subsequently suspended for four weeks while the Bath kit manager Steve Middleton was also banned for a match for comments he made to Tempest.

Watson, who tweeted: “Here we go again. Where is he supposed to wrap?! Obsurd [sic] decision”, has also been instructed to deliver a presentation to his Bath teammates and academy players on the use of social media. The 27-year-old accepted the charge and issued a statement expressing his remorse, citing his long-term injury lay-off suffered a week earlier, as context for his behaviour.

“I would like to record my remorse for my actions, it was never my intention to bring the game into disrepute and my ignorance surrounding the matter is not acceptable,” Watson wrote in a statement. “My actions cannot be explained simply by shifting the blame or placing extreme emphasis on my circumstances, I understand I must be accountable for my actions.

“However, contextually I believe it’s important to understand how difficult the past month or so has been for me. A week prior to this game I suffered a potentially season-ending knee injury, which alone is not the easiest thing to deal with. However, when coupled with the fact that a mere two years ago I spent 13 months on the sideline watching my team and rehabilitating a double ruptured achilles – [that] can explain some level of the frustration I am feeling.”

The disciplinary panel also heard from the Rugby Football Referees’ Union, which highlighted concerns over the acute shortage of match officials at grassroots level following the pandemic-enforced layoff. “It is no secret that the number of referees taking up the whistle again after such a prolonged lay-off, is causing concern,” read a statement.

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“A situation exacerbated by many of our members leaving the game having become disillusioned with, among other things, persistent challenging of their decisions and unfortunately, some serious incidences of match official abuse. Worse still, enticing new referees, especially young match officials, into the game becomes that more challenging.

“The refereeing community is a relatively tight-knit one and incidents of abuse and disrespect for the role soon permeate amongst officials, undermining their confidence and commitment. Furthermore, we cannot stress the impact that poor behaviour towards match officials, be it challenging decisions, appealing, disrespect or abuse, within the professional end of our game has on the wider game.”

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