Castleford Tigers rugby club has been hit with a £40,000 fine after its fans subjected gay player Gareth Thomas to homophobic taunts.

The Yorkshire club was punished by the Rugby Football League (RFL) for the abuse Thomas received from its supporters at a March 26th match against the Crusaders.

A statement from the RFL said: “Castleford were found guilty of unacceptable behaviour, of breaching the RFL’s respect policy, of misconduct by their supporters and of conduct prejudicial to the interests of the sport.

“The tribunal was chaired by his Honour Judge Rodney Grant, who criticised the club for failing to take steps to stop the homophobic chanting, for failing to identify the perpetrators, for failing to challenge the chanting and for their failure to undertake a meaningful inquiry afterwards.”

The March game was Thomas’ second for the Crusaders after he switched from rugby union to rugby league.

He came out in December after keeping his sexuality secret for years.

Castleford must pay £20,000 of the fine immediately with the other half suspended until the end of 2011. They must also pay £20,000 suspended from another £40,000 fine handed down last September after fans threw bottles on the pitch and abused match officials.

The club is expected to appeal the decision.

Castleford chief executive Richard Wright said: “The evidence does not support the decision and does not in any way support the scale of the penalty. We totally refute the outcome of the hearing.”