JEREMY CROSS COLUMN: Marler needs ban, Arsenal should axe Wenger and England don’t need KP

Fast forward to last week and we had a situation in which Marler, representing England no less, made a racist and derogatory comment towards Wales rival Samson Lee.

Marler made fun of Lee’s Traveller heritage by calling him “Gypsy boy”.

His comments were picked up on the referee’s microphone. Marler apologised at half-time, shook hands with Lee and was handed a dressing down from England boss Eddie Jones.

Then an investigation took place that provided the Six Nations Committee with the perfect chance to do the right thing and make an example of Marler.

In other words, take a leaf out of football’s book and throw it at someone with such a high profile who is regarded as an idol to those future generations of the game.

Instead, Marler escaped any punishment whatsoever and was cleared to play in his side’s Grand Slam triumph over France in Paris at the weekend.

The buffoons responsible for conducting the investigation released a statement which said they were “aware of the seriousness of Mr Marler’s comment and did not in anyway condone what was said” but accepted it was said “in the heat of the moment”.

Banter in the heat of the moment?

Oh well then, that’s ok. It was just a joke and he didn’t mean it, so the best thing to do is let him off with a slap on the wrist.

What kind of example is that to set to those children aspiring to become professional sportsmen and women in adult life?

Just because rugby is not as mainstream or popular as football doesn’t mean wrongdoings like that should be treated differently.

If Marler had been a Premier League footballer he would have been shamed on the front pages and at the centre of a probe that would have resulted in the right outcome.

The Welsh RFU were left fuming and Jones accused them of trying to derail his side’s hopes of beating France. But Jones is badly missing the point.

It’s never banter, whether the victim is black or white or from whatever religion, colour or creed.

Rugby Union is supposed to be the gentleman’s game, but it has dragged itself into the gutter with this remarkable show of what appears to be institutionalised racism right at the top.

The onus is now on the game’s governing body, World Rugby, to take some responsibility in a bid to repair the self-inflicted damage imposed on the sport.

It has the power to appeal against the disciplinary verdict in a law that states the verbal abuse of a player based on religion, race, colour, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation or otherwise carries a sanction of a four-week ban.

This still isn’t long enough, but it’s a start and those who run and rule the game need to wake up and haul themselves from the dark ages into the modern world.


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