When Rugby Union star Gareth Thomas came out last year he said he was ‘proud’ and ‘relieved’ that he could now be himself. Since then he has changed codes from Union to League and joined rugby’s SuperLeague team- The Crusaders. Unfortunately, in only his second game, and playing against the Castleford Tigers, he came in for some homophobic abuse. Many people thought “Well what do you expect?” and “So what… he’s a big enough guy to take it.” but the RFL took a different view and issued the Tigers a whopping £40,000 fine for its fans action.
Thomas’ manager Emanuele Palladino issued a statement congratulating the RFL on taking the strong and historic stance. “Gareth Thomas is all about delivering positive messages and positive changes and, to that end, this was a huge step forward for Gareth and the world of sport. It is not about the fine, but rather recognition that this behaviour from a small section of the Castleford fans is not acceptable in 2010.”
In a recent televised interview Thomas said that the general reaction from fans has been very positive and that he was surprised about the abuse from a small minority of people.He described how he felt at hearing the match slurs. “I’m only human and I can’t deny I was hurt. . . I’ve been told there were people in the crowd telling those chanting to shut up…. Perhaps we need to go through this so that those few people realise no one else will stand for it and then it hopefully won’t happen to the next person who comes out.”
The RFL’s action of slamming the club with such a huge fine is in stark contrast to the Football League’s approach to such incidents… when a slap on the wrist is deemed punishment enough.