A British rugby player will be banned for five games after being found guilty of homophobic abuse.
Zak Hardaker, a 22-year-old fullback England international, admitted to calling another player ‘fucking faggot’ during the game on 30 May.
He was found guilty of a grade E offence of using ‘verbal abuse based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual preference, national or ethnic origin’, which carries a ban of between four and eight matches.
‘Thankyou everyone for ur support, 5 games it is,’ Hardaker tweeted. ‘You live and learn and that’s life, so I’ll just make sure I come out better for it.’
The 22-year-old was thought to have made the comments to referee James Child, but he says he was actually referring to Warrington’s captain Michael Monaghan.
The team’s coach Brian McDermott has jumped to the defence of Hardaker, saying homophobia does not exist in rugby league.
‘From the outset, our club has always had a stance against any form of discrimination,’ he said at a press conference.
‘We actually had a week designated to the Lesbian, Gay and Trans-gender organisation and Zak Hardaker and Kallum Watkins were the cover boys on that.
‘Zak fully accepts the punishment that’s been handed out to him. From the outset, he’s shown remorse and realised the error of his ways.
‘But he’s really upset that he’s getting accused of being homophobic. He’s been found guilty of using offensive language and causing offence.
‘To inaccurately tar a young man with that is irresponsible.’
Hardaker will not play until mid-July, but is expected to attend the England training camp this weekend in Loughborough.