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Rugby club punished over gouge on Gravesend player

PUBLISHED: 12:55 19 January 2011 | UPDATED: 15:13 19 January 2011

Clarence Harding

Clarence Harding

Archant

Fifty points have been deducted from a rugby club which has been fined £2,000 following a "deliberate" attack which left an opposing player blind in one eye.

A Rugby Football Union hearing recently found Maidstone guilty of conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game after Gravesend Rugby Football Club’s Clarence Harding was injured during an eye gouging incident at Mote Park a year ago.

Maidstone player Matt Iles was cleared of any wrongdoing at a previous hearing, but it was determined the victim had been injured in a deliberate act leading to the secondary hearing.

Mr Harding said: “I was really disappointed in the measly £2,000 they got fined. I have golf clubs that cost more than that. I had to give up rugby, I had to redevelop everything I do on a day-to-day basis, it is life-changing.

“For them to build up their reputation again s it is going to take a long time and that is fine, but they will get their reputation back I will never get my sight back.”

In November, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) said it could not be determined which player was responsible for causing the injury in the match on January 17.

The club is currently sixth in London 2 South East with 28 points. However, the penalty handed down by the RFU will almost certainly mean relegation at the end of the season.

Chair of the panel Gareth Rees QC, which met at the end of the week, said: “Players who commit serious acts of misconduct on the field of play must realise that such acts can have serious repercussions for a club as a whole.

“In these changing times clubs must accept a greater responsibility for the conduct of its members, including on the field of play.”

Maidstone can appeal the decision.

A statement released by the club said: “It is clear the RFU discipline panel has made its decision and sanctioned the club. Maidstone FC await the full written judgements both on finding and sanction before consideration is given to an appeal.”

It added: “Maidstone FC are keen to point out that at no stage was there ever an allegation that any officer of the club encouraged, incited or condoned this conduct.

No one at the match witnessed the incident. Maidstone FC make it clear that if they were aware of who did this to Mr Harding and that it was deliberate, they would have taken severe action against that player over and above that taken by any other body.”

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