The World Rugby Appeals Commission has decided this Monday to maintain the sanction against Spain for the improper alignment of the South African Gavin Van den Berg.
The international federation validates a sanction that leaves the team without its first World Cup in 24 years by deducting from the classification the two comfortable victories achieved in the qualifying phase due to the residual participation of the striker, who violated the rules to be eligible by spending more time allowed outside the country of destination.
The appeal of the Spanish Rugby Federation (FER) was based on holding the player responsible, providing evidence such as WhatsApp messages that proved his participation in the falsification of the photocopy of his passport, supposedly lost, but the managing body of rugby considers "irrelevant ” that aspect,
Spain argued in its appeal, filed between the FER and the players, that it did not have the new evidence at the original hearing and that some did not come into its possession until the sanction was made public.
The FER's trump card was that Van den Berg's participation served as a mitigating factor, but it did not.
"The evidence of the complicity of the player is not only obviously incomplete, but the player is part of criminal and disciplinary proceedings," replicates the decision, which affects the right of the South African, who did not participate in the appeal – he did in first instance–, not to incriminate himself while being investigated by the Spanish justice system.
World Rugby disregards the player's intent and blames the FER for not having been "particularly aware of the requirements" and not having confirmation of the player's eligibility before selecting him.
In addition, he adds that some conversations presented occurred after he was selected, in December of last year, weeks before a new regulation came into force that raised from three to five years the time a player must spend in the country of destination without abandon it more than 60 days to be eligible.
Spain looks for a crack to return to the Rugby World Cup
The deadline may be exceeded due to exceptional circumstances, as the FER used with Van den Berg's return to South Africa in 2019, but the 101 days that Spain accredited became 127. He attended a wedding, a photograph that cemented Romania's complaint, owner of the square that Spain loses.
The response of the president of the FER, Alfonso Feijoo, who will resign once the process is over, is that he was the victim of a hoax.
“Before selecting a player, federations must ensure that they obtain valid documentation proving his eligibility,” says World Rugby.
The international federation knocks down another of Spain's arguments: that the sanction is disproportionate, since Van den Berg played a few minutes in two games that the team won by 40 points or more.
World Rugby punishes the recidivism of the FER, which was already sanctioned for improper alignment in qualifying for the 2019 World Cup. It speaks of three transgressions "in such a short period of time" and concludes a "failure" in its eligibility procedures.
Another of Spain's hopes was comparative law, which is why it used similar cases, such as that of the English club London Welsh, which resulted in a deduction of 1 point and not 10, the punishment of the national team.
World Rugby responds: "The transfer of players in a domestic league is not comparable to the breach of the regulations that determine the right to represent a country, as it can result in damage to the international integrity of the sport."
The discount of points dropped Spain, second in the European classification, to fourth place, behind Romania and Portugal.
The FER filed a complaint with World Rugby last Friday to investigate whether New Zealander Jason Tomane had committed an offense similar to that of Van den Berg by spending three months in Hungary.
If the same punishment was applied, Romania would be the one discarded from the World Cup;
Portugal, now third, would occupy the direct place and Spain would go on to play the playoffs.
Romania has ensured that it has all the permits.
This is the only loophole that would remain for Spain to recover what was gained in the field and lost in the offices, since the decision made this Monday by the Independent Appeals Commission is final and mandatory, without the right to appeal.
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