Following an appeal lodged by the Federación Española de Rugby (FER) (Spanish Union), an Independent Appeal Committee has upheld the original decision of the Independent Judicial Committee relating to breaches of player eligibility during the European regional Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification process.
On 5 May, 2022, an Independent Judicial Committee determined that the Spanish Union breached the World Rugby Eligibility regulation by fielding Gavin van den Berg in two Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification matches. The sanction imposed by the committee included a fine and points deduction resulting in the Spanish national team no longer qualifying for Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.
An Independent Appeal Committee comprising Wang Shao Ing (Chair), Adam Casselden SC and John Langford (former player, Australia), was convened to examine the Spanish Union’s appeal of the committee’s decision and sanction.
In accordance with the scope of the appeals process, the Spanish Union needed to prove either that: a) the decision of the Independent Judicial Committee was in error; b) in the interests of justice that the decision should be overturned and/or c) that the sanction imposed was manifestly excessive or wrong in principle.
As part of its appeal, the Spanish Union sought to introduce new evidence that was not put before the Independent Judicial Committee. The Independent Appeal Committee carefully considered the Spanish Union’s arguments regarding why the new evidence should be admitted, examined all of the new documentary evidence, and decided not to admit it because:
- it determined that the Spanish Union had not adequately explained why this evidence was unavailable on reasonable enquiry ahead of the original hearing; and
- in any event it would not be in the interests of justice to do so after having regard for all of the circumstances, including consideration that part of the new evidence presented was not only incomplete, but contained allegations against the player and others relating to the alteration of a photocopy of a national identity document that was subject to ongoing investigations by the appropriate competent bodies in the Spanish jurisdiction.
The Independent Appeal Committee reviewed the original decision of the Independent Judicial Committee based on the evidence that was before it. Having considered detailed submissions from the Spanish Union and World Rugby, the Independent Appeal Committee dismissed the appeal.
In accordance with World Rugby regulations, the decision of the Independent Appeal Committee is final and binding with no further right to appeal.
With respect to Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification, the 10-point deduction applied to the Rugby World Cup 2023 European qualification table by the Independent Judicial Committee stands, meaning that Romania qualifies as Europe 2 into Pool B replacing Spain, and Portugal replaces Romania in the Final Qualification Tournament in November 2022.