Fuimaono-Sapolu banned for three weeks by RFU

Following his RFU hearing this evening, Eliota-Fuimaono Sapolu has received a three week ban for his comments on Twitter towards the IRB. He is suspended from November 8 to November 28th. Should it have been more?

“ELIOTA FUIMAONO-SAPOLU of Gloucester Rugby was tonight banned for three weeks after being found guilty of two charges of Conduct prejudicial to the interests of the Game contrary to Rule 5.12 of the Rules of the Rugby Football Union.

The RFU Disciplinary Panel of Daniel White (chair), Mike Curling and John Doubleday suspended Fuimaono-Sapolu from November 8 to 28. He can play again on November 29.

The Panel found that Fuimaono-Sapolu made or adopted from other users of Twitter, critical or sarcastic comments about the rugby disciplinary process and made, or adopted from other users of Twitter, critical comments about the Rugby World Cup and the International Rugby Board on his Twitter account.

The Panel dismissed the charge of making or adopting from other users of Twitter, insulting or provocative comments about Owen Farrell, a professional rugby player, on his Twitter account.

Panel chair Daniel White said: “The Twitter forum is not one for ‘banter’ and is not the equivalent of a clubhouse discussion – it is in fact a public forum, and for that reason players should be guarded in what is said and therefore endorsed. We note that over 13,000 people are registered to follow Mr Fuimaono-Sapolu on Twitter. It should be noted that young people, those learning the sport and the public at large look to people in his position and for these reasons we have imposed a sentence designed to deter others who may be tempted to act in this way.”

This finding does not necessarily trigger the suspended sentence imposed on October 15 by the International Rugby Board for breaches of the Rugby World Cup 2011/International Rugby Board Code of Conduct.

The Panel is keen to stress that this decision stands alone and that it is a matter for the IRB to determine whether the actions of Fuimaono-Sapolu constituted a breach of the conditions of that sanction.”

12 thoughts on “Fuimaono-Sapolu banned for three weeks by RFU

  1. Rubbish. “cricital or sarcastic comments about the disciplinary process” – so what?! This law for conduct prejudicial to the interest of the game seems like a huge blanket for the IRB and RFU to just ban any free speech from players and coaches. Screw that. Also, why should Gloucester be punished for it? If they aren’t happy with his Twitter usage then they can talk to him about it, as i’m sure they have.

    I’m firmly on EFS’s side in this. His comments are his own opinions, yes he’s aired them publicly but they’ve been blown up out of all proportion and when he’s openly questioned on them he makes a reasonable argument for the things he says.

    1. Sorry Spike I have to disagree. If a player has opinions like this he should voice them to the proper channels and follow whatever protocols have been set in place. It’s all very well making a reasonable argument after his opinions have been aired, but they should never have been put in the public domain.
      At the end of the day he’s an employee, and if he has an issue with his superiors (at any level), he should take it up with his manager, in this case Bryan Redpath. If Bryan then thinks it’s an issue, he takes it higher.There should be no difference here. And as for publicly slagging off other players (possible jealousy issue here), that really should be unacceptable, but they’ve seen fit to clear him of that.

    2. I agree to an extent, but EFS has been very ill-advised with some of the comments he’s made. He seems to have been charged for the lesser offences though.

      Calling a fellow player an ‘arrogant prick’ is not very sensible, and as for his RWC comments, holocaust comparisons and racism allegations, that’s taking free speech a little too far.

      I had some sympathy to start with, but he’s not being very smart.

  2. How can you take free speech too far? You either censor/ban people or you allow them their opinions. You don’t just ban people when they say something 3 people deem “too far”. So many people were saying it was unfair on Samoa to have such a short turnaround but no-one in the IRB does anything about it. I don’t think they’ve even made a comment apologising for the format or saying they’ll rectify it in the future. Who would listen if EFS went to Redpath and told him he was dissatisfied with the way the IRB treat the “minor” nations?
    His comments on holocaust and racism were comparisons on a vastly different scale but the reasoning is sound.
    Plus, the RFU and IRB don’t pay him so they aren’t his boss. There might be indirect funding filtering its way through to Samoa’s tackle bags and the like but Gloucester pay his wages so I agree, they’d be within their rights to discipline him.

    1. All the same there must be channels of communication for his grievances. As far as I know he’s not even the captain of Samoa, so it’s still not his job to voice the grievances, it should come from the team captain. He should have taken his grievances to someone above him, and then follow on from there, not just rant and rave on a public forum for thousands of people to read. Everyone has opinions on all kinds of things, but his comments are above and beyond acceptable. And as Hutch has said to call a fellow player an “arrogant prick”, whether he is or not is something to be kept between the two players, not voiced behind his back.

      1. Totally agree with Dazza

        Free speech has his limits. Which is why we have libel and slander laws and why you cannot shout “fire” in a crowded cinema without getting into trouble

        As for the IRB and the RFU, they are the overall authority in much the same way that the Law Society regulate solicitors and the GMC regulates doctors.

        EFS’ comments are way beyond the pale and the truth of what he is saying (as far as the RWC is concerned) is diluted by the fashion in which he says it. The furore is therefore based around him rather than the issues he purports to be angry about

        By the way, you might just be able to argue the racism thing but in no possible way whatsoever is his reasoning “sound” when he compares some rugby games to an event in which countless people were murdered. The very suggestion shows the man to be an utter fool

        As for his comments about Farrell – well, they were just pathetic

        Such a shame as he is an excellent player

        1. Looks like i’m in a minority here in his defence!

          Its difficult to reason over text which is why in the 140 characters he uses to air his grievances it often gets interpreted in different ways. Which, i suppose, gives more credence to the argument that he shouldn’t use twitter for ranting!

          My interpretation is that two of the most obvious and emotive examples of institutionalised persecution of a minority would be apartheid and the holocaust. It is a huge leap in terms of impact and severity but when trying to point out the ongoing poor treatment of lower-tier nations by the IRB i still maintain that his inference is sound.

          Do we all agree that the lower-tier nations should have the same amount of preparation time in between world cup matches as the top-tier?

          Although this discussion is about him and his ban, it keeps the issue in the public eye which is what hasn’t happened after previous world cups when the four years seems enough time for the IRB to conveniently forget to allow fair match scheduling.

          In terms of the limits of free speech – he hasn’t said anything that puts people in danger, nor lied or made things up to make a point. He has criticised a governing body who are now censoring him and other players from doing so.

          1. Spike – I definitely agree that the lower tier nations should be treated the same. It is ridiculous to think that a nation such as Namibia (mostly amateur players) can competitively play three games in a ten or 12 day period. Any of the top teams would struggle, so it is unfair.

            I think the problem is the way he has aired his views and opinions. Maybe if he started a campaign on facebook, asking people to sign a petition, anything other than his approach, it could have been very different.

            As for his criticism of the governing body, again it’s the way he went about criticising them, and the words used.

  3. Bad play by the IRB ! they know the did the schedules bad and dont want to admmit it, im thinking may be they want the more traditional countries to be better as they offer bigger markets and give more money than little pacific countries !

    1. I don’t think that even the IRB would argue with what you’ve said. It is all about money and television rights and how much you can sell them for. England mid week game wouldn’t get half as many viewers and therefore the broadcaster wouldn’t pay as much money for it – simple. It’s no secret. Very unlikely to change. I feel that the “minor” nations are particularly hard done by, but the IRB will always put cash before rugby development – albeit while talking a good game.

      In this RWC I believe that they blamed the smaller nations having amateur players and therefore being unable to take more time off work, so they condensed the format. WHY then don’t they help pay some of the costs of the smaller nations? Money – it will always be about money – it’s the world we live in!

    1. I think Farrell was just trying to wind him up, and apparently it worked. I’ve only seen the highlights, but from what I’ve seen Farrell had a much better game than EFS, and that’s probably what he’s more annoyed about, that Farrell made him look average, which he’s not.

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