Leeds Rhinos exec claims homophobic slur investigation is a ‘witch hunt’
A Leeds Rhinos exec has claimed that a second investigation into the alleged use of homophobic slurs by one of his players is a “witch hunt”.
However, it was reported yesterday that the 22-year-old will now be investigated by the Rugby Football League (RFL) again, for alleged homophobic abuse in a match during which the Leeds Rhinos were defeated by St Helens on Friday.
Hardaker declined to appeal the previous ban in June, and said the time spent away has made him a “better person”, but the team’s chief executive now claims he is subject to a “witch hunt”.
Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington told the Mail: “We are concerned there appears to be a witch hunt by the RFL towards Zak Hardaker and we are calling for an external investigation into the issues surrounding the investigation.
“We know the match commissioner was asked by the media at the post-match press conference if the referee had reported any incident or comment and they were told ‘no’.
“We want to know why the referee’s report quite mysteriously now contains a reference to a possible comment.
“It seems incongruent with the RFL’s stance and the vigour that they are now pursuing this incident with that the referee would not have reported this to his superior on the night, as is the protocol in these circumstances, or taken action during the game.
“We understand a St Helens player has been interviewed and he has stated he did not hear anything. There is a hint of mystery about the whole issue and the use of a lip reader has added a new dimension to on-field conduct, particularly when games are televised.
“Whilst the RFL deliberate, we will continue to support Zak and at the same time press the RFL for clear transparency about the whole process.”