Banned Brendan Venter makes public apology to ref

SARACENS director of rugby Brendan Venter has publicly apologised to referee David Rose after being found guilty of "implying criticism of the match referee by stating that he had been influenced at half-time" by an RFU disciplinary panel.

The 41-year-old was handed a four-week ban from matchday coaching, suspended until 31 December, and ordered to pay costs of 250.

The South African faced a charge of "conduct prejudicial to the interests of the Union" after criticising Rose for his performance during his side's 22-15 Guinness Premiership defeat by Leicester on 2 January, suggesting the official had been influenced during the interval due to a huge rise in the number of penalties conceded by Saracens during the second half.

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But in an apology on the Saracens website, which was required as part of his punishment, he said: "I apologise unreservedly for making a statement which caused offence to David Rose during my post-match comments to the media after our game against Leicester at Vicarage Road on 2 January, 2010.

"I firmly believe that I did not question, or intend to question, David's integrity, and any criticism which has been implied was not meant.

"When I said that I believed he had been influenced at half-time I did not intend that to mean that he was improperly influenced.

"As I said in the interview I have no doubt that all referees operating in the Guinness Premiership, including David, are honest and operate without intentionally favouring one side over another.

"I hope that we can put this matter behind us and I look forward to welcoming David Rose back to Vicarage Road in the near future."

Venter had said during a BBC radio interview: "I think the referee was influenced at half-time, and that's all I can think.

"All I know is something happened at half-time, the game changed."

Despite finding the former Springbok centre guilty, the RFU panel raised concerns about the current system within the Premiership that allows coaches to pass hand-written communications to the fourth official, which are then brought to the attention of the referee at half-time.

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Their comments read: "This system does allow coaches to influence the referee and there is potential for that influence to be improper."

The judgment continued: "We understand that this was established to diffuse any potential conflicts which might occur if there were direct contact.

"However, we believe that the system should either prevent any direct or indirect contact or, if there is to be written contact, be more formal and transparent. Ed Morrison (RFU referees' chief] has agreed to review this process."

The RFU's case also documented that Venter "had not raised any issues about the decision making before, during or after the match and he (Rose] had not been informed at half-time by any other match official that Saracens wished to bring any concerns about his refereeing to his attention".