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'Let's put World Rugby on trial' - Sharks owner vows to defend Rassie

Marco Masotti says he has ‘a team of New York lawyers’ ready to support Erasmus.

SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.
SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus.
Image: PA

THE HEAD OF the consortium that has a majority share in South Africa’s Sharks franchise has vowed to support Rassie Erasmus and SA Rugby after World Rugby brought a misconduct charge against them.

Marco Masotti says he has “a team of New York lawyers” ready to lend their support to the cause.

Rugby’s governing body confirmed on Monday that Erasmus and his union will have to face an independent disciplinary hearing after the SA Rugby director of rugby released a 62-minute video criticising referee Nic Berry’s performance in the first Lions Test and also questioning World Rugby’s feedback process around refereeing.

World Rugby has yet to confirm a date for the hearing, which was brought against Erasmus and SA Rugby for a breach of regulation 18, relating to criticism of match officials.

The possible sanctions for breaches of regulation 18 range from warnings, fines, and suspensions all the way up to the replaying of a match or expulsion of the union from World Rugby. 

Erasmus and SA Rugby have now received the support of Masotti, the head of the US-based MVM Holdings consortium that purchased a majority share of the Sharks franchise earlier this year. South Africa native Masotti is a high-profile lawyer in the US, having moved there in the 1990s.

Masotti took to Twitter to make a brief statement:

“I have a team of New York lawyers ready to take care of Rassie and SA Rugby,” wrote Masotti.

“Let us put World Rugby on trial . . .”

Masotti’s MVM consortium was also key to the Sharks signing a partnership with Roc Nation, Jay Z’s high-profile marketing company, who promote the likes of music sensations Rihanna and Shakira, as well as a number of sporting stars and clubs.

Masotti and co. are clearly backing SA Rugby ahead of the misconduct hearing. 

Source: JJ/Vimeo

“Match officials are the backbone of the sport, and without them there is no game,” said World Rugby’s statement on Monday evening.

“World Rugby condemns any public criticism of their selection, performance or integrity which undermines their role, the well-established and trust-based coach-officials feedback process, and more importantly, the values that are at the heart of the sport.

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“Having conducted a full review of all the available information, World Rugby is concerned that individuals from both teams have commented on the selection and/or performance of match officials.

“However, the extensive and direct nature of the comments made by Rassie Erasmus within a video address, in particular, meets the threshold to be considered a breach of World Rugby Regulation 18 (Misconduct and Code of Conduct) and will now be considered by an independent disciplinary panel. The date and panel will be confirmed in due course.

“World Rugby has reminded the management of both teams of the importance of this area and their obligations regarding the values of the sport. In order to protect the integrity of the sport and its values, World Rugby will also undertake a review of its Code of Conduct relating to incidents of this nature with a view to strengthening scope, rules and sanctions.

“As with any test series, South Africa versus the British and Irish Lions is a showcase of rugby that generates great excitement and interest, even more so at this challenging time for sport and society.

“It is an opportunity for both teams and their management to set a positive example and concentrate on the spectacle and a wonderful example of rugby and its values at their best.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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