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NRL warns of ‘strongest possible’ penalties for racial abuse by fans at Central Coast Stadium
The NRL has announced that it will enforce the “strongest possible” penalties on spectators who are alleged to have yelled racist comments at Penrith Panthers Indigenous player, Brent Naden at Gosford’s Central Coast Stadium at the weekend.
NRL acting Chief Executive, Andrew Abdo has announced an investigation into the alleged abuse that led to a group of spectators being removed from the venue, noting “if the allegations are proven to be of a racial nature or vilification nature or of a bullying nature, we’ll take the strongest possible action the game can take against those individuals.
“Things like this don’t happen that often but they should never happen.
“When they do happen, we have to act decisively.
“We have to act in a unified and strong way, and that’s what we intend to do.
“It’s important for us to know that all our players feel supported, that everyone in the game, whether they’re fans or players, feel supported, and that we uphold the standards that are important to us as a rugby league community.
“We’ll complete the investigation and we’ll take whatever action we deem necessary to make sure that those fans who are proven to act in this way are not able to attend our games going forward.
“There was a large group of people involved, so we will need to look at all the available evidence and then we’ll base the determination on what was said and what can be proven.
“But we’ve proven in the past, and we’ve acted similarly in the past, that we will take strong action and that may include excluding fans for a long period of time."
The alleged abuse was pointed out by Naden during the game, with a Panthers official indicating the spectators allegedly followed him near the halfway line and continued abuse after Naden alerted team trainer, Hayden Knowles.
Panthers coach, Ivan Cleary, said he appreciates the NRL’s efforts to support Naden.
Cleary advised “he said that it’s not the first time he’s heard that in his life but I think in this form it has been
“So he certainly took offence to it at the time but he’s OK now.
“It’s one of those situations I guess where you can only react to how you feel at the time.
“Whatever was said, and I don’t know exactly what was said, definitely affected him.
“He even said he didn’t expect it to affect him.”
Abdo went on to state “he (Naden) obviously has the support of his team but more importantly he has the support of the entire rugby league community.
“I think the response following this incident shows just how we feel about matters like this and I think he appreciates that.
“But he’s a human being and I’m sure he feels rattled.
“He knows that there are different ways in which we can support him through this, and our investigative team has been working with him.
“What we’ll have to do is work incident by incident and eradicate people whose values we don’t stand for.”
Abdo added that the investigation will use video, audio, and eyewitness accounts as evidence to review before reaching a decision, saying the NRL is still working to establish the identities and whereabouts of the alleged offenders.
Images: Penrith Panthers player, Brent Naden (top, courtesy of Penrith Panthers) and Gosford’s Central Coast Stadium (below).
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