By Alan Dymock
HAD LEICESTER Tigers said: “we’re not angry, we’re just disappointed,” while spinning a ruddy-cheeked RFU spokesman towards the naughty step it would have had the same ring…
Following an appeal to the nine-match touchline ban handed to Richard Cockerill – a punishment for his antics during the Aviva Premeirship final where he was ruled to direct obscene, inappropriate and/or unprofessional language and behaviour at fourth official Stuart Terheege – the head coach saw his ban brought forward to include two friendly matches, but not shortened.
After this ruling, which saw two friendlies against Jersey and Ulster brought under the ban but not a friendly against French champions Montpellier, the East Midlands club released a scalding statement about their feelings on the matter.
“We are pleased that the judgement vindicated our decision to appeal and we are grateful to the panel for the consideration that they showed,” the statement read, before changing tact: “although we await with interest the written judgement to see why the pre-season game against Montpellier falls into a different category than those against Jersey and Ulster.
“We remain disappointed with the RFU’s conduct in this matter but, as we have previously stated, this is a matter we shall pursue privately.”
Surely Cockerill regretted his actions, though this is rarely reiterated enough, but this line from the club spoke more of a sour taste at the handling of the incident. The RFU have come under fire for the length of time it took to rule on the matter and their conduct before and after. Cockerill has not been banned for the Montpellier fixture, meaning the Heineken Cup pool match against Treviso will be the last played out with the director of rugby.
It must be understood that this is a punishment, however, and while his ban may be compared to that handed down to red-carded hooker Dylan Hartley who has shouldered an 11-week ban that also includes friendlies, the circumstances are slightly different.
Arguably, Hartley’s ban is a total-rugby ban, meant to starve the player of all action as penitence for his lapse in the final. Cockerill’s ban is meant to keep him from decision making so as to show him what affect his actions have on a whole team, hence the deliberate move to include a Heineken pool game.
As the miscreant acts of both subjects came in the league’s showcase finale and because both men have previous, it will irk some that the decisions on both did not come at the same time with similar lengths of ban or start-times for the ban.
Of course, it would have sent more of a message to keep Hartley’s ban from all competitive action while starting Cockerill’s ban from the same time or not amending their original decision. Clearly they wanted to the ban to come in for the Treviso match and they felt that keeping the ban at nine matches but bringing it forward would at least seem slightly more lenient. The one-match Montpellier oversight still jars, though, and speaks of uncertainty.
When it comes to such matters, surely any concession at all makes the original decision makers ill at ease and portrays the ruling body as less than commanding. No wonder they are getting a finger wagged in their face and being told they may not get any supper.