Why does Owen Farrell keep getting off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, and what does that say about the judiciary system and World Rugby’s never-ending preaching about player safety?
Earlier this week it was confirmed that the England flyhalf had received just a five-match suspension for a dangerous tackle in the Premiership match between Saracens and Wasps, despite the fact that is latest victim, Charlie Atkinson, is now recovering from the head knock. Farrell was shown red by referee Christopher Ridley on the hour mark for the head-high move.
While the disciplinary panel concluded the tackle was a top-end offence – with a suspension entry of 10 matches, by the way – ‘mitigating circumstances’ saw his ban brought down to just five matches.
What are these ‘mitigating circumstances’ exactly? Apparently, a defence which included testimonials by Saracens boss Mark McCall, English mentor Eddie Jones and the founders of a charity with which Farrell allegedly works closely with were enough, testimonials that would obviously have been biased at best.
Farrell’s latest act should have been judged for what it was, not for his character or what he does off the field. And if records and past offences factor in at all – as we’ve seen with other players – he should have received maximum punishment, after all, his rugby thuggery has made more headlines than any contribution he’s made on the field in recent years.
The sad part is, however, that’s he’s got away with so much wrongdoing in the field of play that his official record probably isn’t even noteworthy. But it shouldn’t matter if he singlehandedly funds nine and a half charities and picks up and houses stray puppies every time he leaves the house, it shouldn’t matter whether he plead guilty or showed remorse, that’s anyway the least he could have done after this past weekend, point is he should not have got off so lightly, and the fact that he did says a lot about rugby’s judiciary system, and it’s nothing flattering.
Also, by ruling that his action was ‘reckless and not intentional’ in itself can create even more issues. Should intent even factor in?
At some stage one has to ask whether any other player, especially one outside the ‘home of rugby’ would have enjoyed the same patience and tolerance as has been repeatedly granted to Farrell.
And, even though it may not fall on them directly, at what point does Word Rugby step in and make good on all the ‘player safety’ speeches we’ve heard over the years?
Farrell has got away with way too much and, in the process, he’s made a mockery of everything World Rugby is trying to achieve when it comes safety. Enough is enough.