SUOMEN RUGBYLIITTO        

FINNISH RUGBY FEDERATION                

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DISCIPLINARY PANEL REPORT

Match:  Tampere Rugby Club - Eagles Rugby Club

Competition: Division 1, Men

Date: 9.9.2017

Player/club: Tatu Rantakokko, Eagles Rugby Club (“The Player”)

Reason for hearing

Player was cited by Tampere Rugby Club contrary to Law 10.4(a) Punching or Striking.  Specifically, on the following points:

The mentioned incident occurred in the 2nd half of the game where an Eagles player, Tatu Rantakokko punched a TRC player, Jussi Okkonen.

We believe that the striking of the TRC player was with malice and intent to harm Jussi Okkonen. Whilst we appreciate the physical nature and intensity of the sport, we cannot ignore malicious intent or a physical assault of any kind.

We request that the Disciplinary Board cite Tatu Rantakokko.

Although the actual punch went unnoticed by the match referee, there were a number of witnesses to the striking of the TRC player.

The match had to be stopped to assess the extent of the damage caused by Tatu's strike. The TRC player had to be escorted from the field as he was disoriented and unstable on his feet.

Panel composition

Palemia Field, George Mossford, Stephen Whittaker

Evidence submitted

Written statements from the Referee (Chris Gibbons), Eagles Rugby Club (Jessi Mäenpää, for Eagles RC) & Tampere (Jussi Okkonen, “The Victim Player”).  Video footage of the game was supplied by Tampere via YouTube, however this was inconclusive.

Referee's report: "This particular incident happened approximately on the Turku 22, about 5m in from the far side touch. There was 13 mins left on the clock in the second half. A maul had formed, I was on the open side, behind Turku who were in posession going forward.

As the ball was being played out of the maul, I saw Jussi fall to the ground on the blind side of the maul. I started to follow play across the field, but looked back to check on Jussi who got to his feet and then fell over again. He not in contact at this point.

When I saw him fall again, he looked unsteady on his feet and I assumed he had hit his head. I immediately stopped play and called for medical aid, two doctors came over, checked him and he was then removed from the pitch. He walked off unaided, but was clearly not 100% right.

The TJ, Akeksi Aalto, came to me before play resumed and said that Tatu had caused Jussi to fall, but did not confirm what Tatu had done to him. Also, being just a TJ not an AR, according to the laws I was unable to act on that information anyway.

Tatu went to Jussi when the doctors were treating him (One Turku player and Hanna Visuri) and made sure he was ok and apologised to him.

Tatu then approached me and told me he had caused the incident but would not elaborate. He said Jussi had him in a head lock on the far side of the maul and did not release him. This was not mentioned by the TJ at the time.

With no evidence of foul play, play restarted with a Turku scrum and TRC finished the match with 14 players and uncontested scrums.

After the match, at the pitch, I checked on Jussi and he confirmed he did have Tatu in a head lock and that Tatu punched him to make him release.

At the post match dinner, three Turku players confirmed to me that Tatu did punch Jussi, but he didn't realise the effect it would have.

All of this evidence so far is hearsay, except for Jussi admitting his illegal hold on Tatu and Tatu apologising for an unseen and unconfirmed action.
"

Eagles statement: "The video evidence submitted by TRC does not indicate any infringement occurring in the maul. I discussed the situation with the Eagles player involved (#3 Tatu Rantakokko) and according to him the Tampere player (Jussi Okkonen) strangled him very hard from the neck in the maul and this clogged Rantakokko's throat completely. Due to panic from the lack of oxygen in an attempt to release himself from the chokehold, Mr. Rantakokko threw an "aimless and powerless" shove, which accidentally hit Mr Okkonen. Mr. Rantakokko has shown deep remorse over the accident, as he has apologized to Mr Okkonen both during and after the game.

The testimonies of the Tampere (nor the Eagles) players can't be used as reliable evidence and must thus be disregarded as hearsay. The whole game was physical and intense affair since the first whistle. In our opinion there should be no disciplinary actions towards neither of the players involved.

Tampere statement: “The incident that took place in a match TRC vs. Turku Eagles was as follows. After lineout Turku had a maul and I was defending it. As I was positioned in first line of defense. I sort of bear grabbed Tatu Rantakokko by upper torso and squeezed his hands to break his binding and remove him from the maul. Apparently Tatu felt my clinch suffocating as he decided to hit me as a vengeance with a fist after I released my grip as he was detached from the maul. The punch came straight from the side to my head without any warning. After Tatu had hit me I collapsed to floor, yet could get up. As I tried to continue playing I felt dizzy and hit the floor again. As I recollect I was conscious all the time, yet some think I blacked out for a while. The outcome of the hit was that I was removed from the field as a result of medical examination since my condition after the punch was assessed such.

The maul is visible on the video, yet the actual punch is not. It is also visible that Tatu did something as he first addresses me and then draws back. Tatu did not take action after the incident or after the match to discuss the issue with me. However,  on Saturday evening at 2120 Tatu send me a personal message apologizing hitting me to face with a fist during the match. He explained his perspective and said he acted in a heat of the moment. I accept his apology and bear no grudge against him.

My physical status after the incident is not too good. In addition to swollen face and a coon eyes I have headache and blurred vision on my right eye. Since I do not have clear symptoms of concussion etc. I should be ok in couple of days. If not,  I’m advised to have my head rechecked.

I wish disciplinary committee takes action on rooting violence off the field. Such behavior is not according to spirit of the rugby. At least I know, and probably Tatu too, that hitting someone with a fist to head can cause serious damage.

Decision to Cite

The intention to cite was received within the specific timeframe and relates to a specific incident that could potentially have been a red card offense. The requirement to originate from an club's own @rugby.fi address is waived on the basis that the citing person was incorrectly advised the process by FRRA personnel and had followed the instructions given on good faith .  

The Match Official also requested, within the timeframe, to investigate.  Therefore a disciplinary panel was convened.

Analysis

The disciplinary panel noted that both Tampere’s and Eagles’ statements concur that The Player struck the head of The Victim Player with force.  This supported by medical evidence.  Therefore, the panel is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the Player concerned committed an offence against Law 10.4(a) Striking or Punching.  

The citing complaint is upheld against The Player

 

Outcome

The panel agreed that regardless of provocation, no Player has the right to strike or punch another player.  That being said, the panel also recognises that The Player was immediately concerned for the welfare of the victim player, has demonstrated numerous times of remorse and concern for The Victim Player and has taken full ownership of his action. 

After considering the evidence submitted, aggravating and mitigating factors,  the panel concluded that a one week suspension is to be issued.  This is to run against the current schedule:

Therefore, The Player is rendered ineligible for selection for any club in any competition until 24 September 2017.

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