Attoub enlists Lee Byrne's legal team for appeal

Or at least he should. Lee Byrne’s appeal has gone remarkably well and on the most part, without enquiry as far as I can see. It seems to me that there has been a dramatic turn around on the behalf of the Independent Disciplinary Committee who less than a week ago told us:

The independent Disciplinary Committee found that Mr Byrne had re-entered the pitch without the referee’s permission and that he knew or ought to have known that he needed that permission. The committee found that this represented a clear breach of the Substitution Protocol, which forms part of the Heineken Cup 2009/10 Tournament Rules,

Fair Dinkum, I’d say. He knew the Ref should know or be told he is coming back on, he wasn’t, two week ban and a fine for the Ospreys. Job and finish. Six days later the appeal report states:

The Independent Appeal Committee, chaired by Rod McKenzie (Scotland) and also comprising Professor Lorne Crerar (Scotland) and Bill Dunlop (Scotland), found that Mr Byrne had demonstrated that the original decision had been in error and the sanction should be varied to a fine of €5,000.

I would like to know just how Mr Byrne demonstrated the error, did he do a clever edit on the footage so that actually he didn’t re enter the field of play? Was it more he convinced them that due to the defensive nature of the modern game and the specific geography of the Liberty Stadium, that having sixteen men on a fifteen man team really didn’t matter? I’d really like to know.I really hope what happened was Mr Byrne headed up there in his white uniform and with the help of his legal team produced transfer documents and the tower chiefs logs A Few Good Men stylee. The hearing ran and ran until one

Professor Lorne-Crerar


of the panel, probably Professor Lorne Crerar screams ‘You Can’t Handle The Truth’ and got arrested. Granted, this probably didn’t happen. 

Something did though, Lee Byrne pleaded guilty at the original hearing, the evidence is solid, what happened? Did they reduce the ban for a week, like with Dupuy? He had his ban reduced for his involvement from in Ferrisgate from 24 to 23 weeks? If we are looking for consistency and the same rule applies Lee Byrne should have had his ban reduced by 13 hours and 40 minutes. Did this happen? No. Lee Byrne got a 5000 Euro fine, a healthy dose of publicity and will be every commentators dream back story should his involvement lead to the Welsh taking home a famous victory from Twickenham on the weekend. To be honest if it all adds up to another beating for the English, who cares?

Well I suppose I do, really. I had a look through the IRB recommended  sanctions list earlier and although the specific misconduct charge, which Byrne has been found guilty of, does not appear, nor do any of the sanctions suggest a fine. To be clear, the IRB does not suggest fining anyone for anything. No fines. Not one. Nada. So if this sanction effectively does not exist how can the Independent Disciplinary Committee invoke it?

In the grand scheme of things do I think Lee Byrne should miss out on possibly two International caps for what was essentially an administrative error? No. Nor do I think, like this Leicester Mercury article that Lee Byrne’s appearance as sixteenth man had any impact on the result of the game, but I don’t think that’s the point. The issue for me is that the committee have ultimately seen sense and decided that the punishment was too great given the misdemeanor. Fine. Or is it? Does this now mean that an extra player on the field for 70 seconds costs 30 000 Euro? If I was Tony McGahan in the final minutes of the inevitable Munster Vs  Leinster Heineken Cup final, I would think 30 000 Euro for an extra man in the defensive line a small price to pay. Why wouldn’t any of the Six Nations coaches with a Grand Slam at stake go for an extra two or three?

For me, a great deal of the beauty in rugby union is found in its technicalities. The numerous rules constantly bent is what sets it apart from all other sports in my view. You might say what Lee Byrne has done has become the epitome of the professional rugby player, bending the rules both on and off the field to his advantage. Alternatively the ERC were wrong to punish him in the first place, surely substitutions are the one area of the game that the players themselves aren’t in control of? I think with the pending Attoub appeal the whole system is heading for, as they’d say in back in Perth, a bit of a bingle. 

Admittedly, I think if Stade, Attoub and their advisers continue with their anti-french campaign they are on a non-starter. Hire Lee Byrne’s guys, let them work their obvious magic. At the very least ask how a ban can be turned into a fine? If Attoub was up for International selection would he be able to play? If two weeks costs 5000 Euro do we give you 175 000 Euro and put the whole thing behind us? How can you find someone who has pleaded guilty, guilty and then admit to having made an error? Rules are rules aren’t they?

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