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Pair banned for homophobic abuse of referee Owens

The matter first came to light when a spectator wrote a letter to British newspaper The Guardian.

Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Updated at 20.30

TWO PEOPLE HAVE been banned from Twickenham for two years after being found to have aimed homophobic abuse at referee Nigel Owens, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) announced on Friday.

“Following the RFU’s investigations into the allegation of homophobic abuse aimed at referee Nigel Owens at the QBE International against New Zealand, two people have received a ban from all matches at Twickenham Stadium for a period of two years,” the RFU said in a statement.

“In addition, they will pay £1,000 ($1,560, 1,260 euros) each to a charity of Nigel Owens’ choice. There is a second investigation still ongoing.”

Welsh official Owens, who is openly gay, was targeted by supporters during England’s 24-21 defeat by New Zealand at Twickenham on November 8.

The matter first came to light when a spectator wrote a letter to British newspaper The Guardian in which he accused a group of male fans of “hurling … nasty, foul-mouthed, racist, homophobic abuse” at Owens.

Owens, who is one of the sport’s most high-profile referees, had previously called for supporters to be issued with stadium bans in cases where allegations of homophobic abuse are proven.

“If someone has gone to the trouble to send a letter to the paper and say that this was disgusting and the behaviour was totally out of order, then I would think what they shouted was pretty bad and if that is the case then these people should be banned from the game,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“They need to be told that some behaviour is not acceptable, that crossing the line of what is humour and banter is a fine line, but if you cross it then you have to put up with the consequences.”

RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said: “While instances of this nature are exceptionally rare, the RFU takes rugby’s values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship very seriously, and is determined to uphold them.

“We are all guardians of these aspects of the game, on and off the pitch, and it is these values which make the sport special.”

- © AFP, 2014

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