Rugby Union

Maro Itoje.

Maro Itoje's agent receives 22-month ban from rugby

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Maro Itoje's agent has been suspended for 22 months by the Rugby Football Union after being found guilty of placing almost 1,500 bets on rugby union worldwide between January 2013 and July 2016.

Matt Hart of the Stellar Group, which also represents Ben T'eo, Taulupe Faletau, and Welsh footballer Gareth Bale, amongst others, was found guilty of two breaches – betting on rugby matches and also receiving proceeds, as well as a failure to cooperate with a request for information by the RFU.

Hart, who was discovered to have deposited in excess of £660,000 into a betting account, will be unable to work again in the sport until February 2020.

There is no suspicion that Hart was taking advantage of inside information or attempting to influence results whilst gambling, but it is strictly prohibited by both RFU and World Rugby regulations for agents to bet on matches.

An independent RFU Disciplinary Panel, chaired by Philip Evans QC, found his betting was 'extensive and frequent' and could be seen as 'very high-stake', revealing that between March and April 2016, Hart placed 10 bets totalling in excess of £138,000 - with the highest individual bet placed worth a whopping £16,234.59.

In a statement, the RFU said the panel found Hart guilty of "betting on the outcome and/or any aspect of an event and receiving part or all of the proceeds of such betting" which was contrary to World Rugby and RFU regulations and also of "non-cooperation" with a request for information from the RFU anti-corruption officer, which was contrary to RFU regulations.

Alys Lewis, RFU anti-corruption officer, said: "This decision unequivocally demonstrates that any activity which undermines the integrity of our sport, and exposes players and rugby to potential integrity issues, will be treated seriously by the RFU.

"The sums of money involved and the frequency and duration of the betting, coupled with the lack of cooperation with the RFU's investigation, have all contributed to a substantial suspension from rugby union which is welcomed by the RFU."

According to the written judgment, Hart accepted the charges at a hearing last month.

Saracens v Harlequins - Aviva Premiership

He had, however, argued in mitigation that he was put under severe emotional pressure to place the bets on behalf of his father David, but the panel found that Hart personally benefited from his gambling winnings and did not return all proceeds to his father.

In their findings the panel concluded: "Matthew Hart was, through his role as an agent, linked to a number of first class rugby players.

"His betting on rugby matches and on some occasions on games which involved some of those players, exposed both the players and the game of rugby to potential integrity issues."

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Topics:
Rugby Union
Aviva Premiership
Maro Itoje
England Rugby
Six Nations
IRB Rugby World Cup

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