Florian Fritz, the Toulouse player (No 13), appeared before an independent Disciplinary Hearing at the ERC offices in Dublin today (Tuesday, 8 February, 2011), as a result of the red card he received during the Heineken Cup Pool 6 match against London Wasps at Adams Park on Sunday, 23 January, 2011, and as a result of a misconduct complaint made against the player after the match.

Here’s a video of the incident. Did he deserve the ban and fine?

The red card was issued in the 47th minute of the second half by referee Alain Rolland (Ireland) for a dangerous tackle on London Wasps wing, Tom Varndell (No 14), in contravention of Law 10.4 (j). The misconduct complaint was made against the player for an offensive hand gesture in the direction of spectators as he was leaving the playing area.

Mr Fritz, who was accompanied at the hearing by René Bouscatel, the Toulouse President, Guy Noves, the Toulouse Director of Rugby, and John O’Donnell SC, contested the red card, but accepted that he had committed the act of misconduct. The ERC Disciplinary Officer, Roger O’Connor, presented the case against the player.

After hearing submissions from both parties and considering all the evidence, the independent Judicial Officer, Robert Williams (Wales), upheld the red card. Mr Williams determined that the tackle had been reckless rather than intentional and he noted that Mr Varndell had suffered no injury.

Mr Williams found that the offence was in the lower end of the level of seriousness for one of this type. Having taken into account all aggravating factors, including the need to deter other players from tackles of this nature, and all mitigating factors, including Mr Fritz’s good conduct at the hearing, he imposed a suspension of three (3) weeks. Mr Fritz will be free to play on Monday, 14 February 2011.

The independent Judicial Officer also upheld the misconduct complaint against the player, who apologised for the offensive hand gesture, and fined him €15,000 plus costs.

Law 10.4 (j) A player must not lift a player from the ground and drop or drive that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground such that the player’s head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground.

Under the IRB Recommended Sanctions for Offences Committed within the Playing Enclosure, Law 10.4 (j) carries the following penalties:
Lower End: 3 weeks
Mid Range: 6 weeks
Top End: 10 to 52 weeks