Venter's final ban stands after RFU rejects appeal

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The Independent Online

Saracens director of rugby Brendan Venter remains banned from his team's Guinness Premiership final meeting with Leicester at Twickenham on Saturday.

Venter last night saw his 14-week suspension – for making provocative and inappropriate gestures and comments to Leicester supporters during a Premiership game at Welford Road earlier this month – reduced to 10 on appeal by an independent Rugby Football Union panel. But that means he still cannot attend Twickenham for the biggest occasion in his club's history when they bid to be crowned English champions for the first time.

Venter, 40, is suspended from match-day involvement with the Saracens team until 29 July. His original ban was due to expire on 24 August. The terms of his initial ban were upheld so that he has no direct contact with his team or match officials on match-days, and is prevented from attending Saturday's crucial tie.

Appeal panel chairman, Jim Sturman QC, said: "The panel was impressed by Dr Venter's appeal for assistance with his conduct in the future and his desire to avoid future clashes with the authorities. We considered that the appeal against conviction had no merit, but have reduced the sentence to allow Dr Venter and Saracens the opportunity to put this matter behind them and start next season with a clean slate."

Saracens had been vociferously critical of the RFU's treatment of Venter, with their chief executive, Edward Griffiths, proving particularly outspoken. He urged English rugby chiefs to stop running the sport like "a rural prep school" after RFU disciplinary chief Judge Jeff Blackett released his original judgement.

Venter was always going to appeal the RFU's decision, and there was no real softening of Saracens' stance last night. "There is no question that Brendan Venter was given a fair hearing by the panel chaired by Jim Sturman QC," said Griffiths. "However, in our view the penalty that prevents Brendan from even attending the final remains entirely disproportionate."

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