Leeds Rhinos have come to the defence of Zak Hardaker in the wake of a RFL investigation into an alleged abusive comment in last Friday's defeat to St Helens. It is alleged Referee Richard Silverwood heard a comment during the game.
The RFL have employed the services of a lip reader to aid their investigation when reviewing television footage.
Leeds Rhinos Chief Executive, Gary Hetherington said, "We are concerned there appears to be a witch-hunt by the RFL towards Zak Hardaker and we are calling for an external investigation into the issues surrounding the investigation. We know the Match Commissioner was asked by the media at the post match press conference if the Referee had reported any incident or comment and they were told 'No'. We want to know why the Referee's report quite mysteriously now contains a reference to a possible comment. It seems incongruent with the RFL's stance and the vigour that they are now pursuing this incident with that the referee would not have reported this to his superior on the night, as is the protocol in these circumstances, or taken action during the game.
"We understand a St Helens player has been interviewed and he has stated he did not hear anything. There is a hint of mystery about the whole issue and the use of a lip reader has added a new dimension to on-field conduct, particularly when games are televised. We also want to better understand why the RFL are pursuing this so rigorously. The only person who appears to have heard anything at all is the Referee and he has belatedly reported this despite not taking any action on the field or after the game with the match commissioner. We want to know the timeline and those involved in this process.
"Given that no charge has been made, it is remarkable that Zak's name was released to the Press Association by an RFL spokesman on Tuesday and this just adds the doubt behind the whole process. The duty of care from the governing body to an individual under investigation is surely paramount. The RFL's guidelines state that the burden of proof lies with the RFL and anyone under investigation is innocent until proven guilty. Whilst the RFL deliberate and we will continue to support Zak and at the same time press the RFL for clear transparency about the whole process.
To celebrate the launch of the new look Leeds Rhinos 2015 training range from this Saturday 25th October at the club store at Headingley Carnegie and online to deliver to your door, we are offering you the chance to come down to the training ground, get an exclusive look behind the scenes and see the players being put through their paces at the start of pre-season.
Rhinos fans can still take advantage of our great direct debit scheme for your 2015 membership by spreading the cost of your membership over nine months, interest free, from £24 per month but they must order their membership before the latest deadline this Saturday.
This October half term Leeds Rhinos Foundation are running a Dance Camp at Priesthorpe High School and if you know a child who loves dancing then enter this competition for a chance to a win a place for them on the two day camp.