Leaders Old Otliensians have been ordered to replay last Saturday’s abandoned SSE Yorkshire Division Four match against Ossett.
Hosts Otliensians were leading 23-3 when the visitors walked off after 58 minutes, apparently fearing for their safety following pitch encroachment by a home spectator.
The Northern Competitions Committee have ruled that the match will be replayed this coming weekend but have given no indication as to why the contest must take place again or if any sanctions will be taken against the hosts for failing to control their spectator or Ossett for walking off – or players from either side for their actions.
Otliensians press secretary John Harrison said: “No rationale has been given to us by the Northern Competitions Committee as to why the match must be replayed.
“We have just been given the message by league secretary Kath McNally – but it is possible that the match might not have to be replayed if it had reached the 60-minute mark as there are precedents for that.”
This Saturday was originally a free date for the division and Harrison added: “We have a couple of players missing but it could have been worse.
“We also had to play a rearranged match on a free date a few weeks ago and only had two or three players missing then.”
Otliensians, who as things stand are assured of promotion, must now hope that the incident won’t spoil their season.
The spectator, believed to be the father of one of the younger Otliensians players, came on to the pitch to help break up a melee.
The spectator was sent away from the perimeter of the pitch by the referee but Ossett, apparently fearing for their players’ safety, refused to continue the match.
The official result on the RFU website was Old Otliensians 23, Ossett 3, although the timing of the abandonment was given as 60 minutes.
Harrison refutes that any punches were thrown by the spectator, as the Ossett RUFC website alleges, and said that he was merely trying to break up the antagonists.
“I was on the far side of the field from the incident – about 60 to 70 yards away – and visibility was not that good,” said Harrison.
“Our first aid lady was on the pitch treating an injured Ossett player with the referee nearby and I was watching that as I wondered whether the player would be able to continue.
“Then a melee broke out some 20 to 30 yards away involving about eight or ten players – an equal amount from both sides – and the spectator came on to the pitch to break it up.
“The spectator was ordered from the perimeter of the pitch by the referee and stood about 15 to 20 yards away but Ossett then decided not to continue the match on the grounds of player safety.
“The referee said afterwards that he wanted the game to continue. However, there was no ill feeling that I saw between the two teams afterwards.
“The players each formed a tunnel as per usual to applaud each other off and Ossett’s players stayed for a couple of hours afterwards in our clubhouse before heading off to Leeds for a night out.”
Otliensians are 16 points ahead of third-placed Wetherby, who have only two matches left – but the championship is still up for grabs as Stocksbridge are only four points behind the Pool Road club, having played a game more.
However, there is the potential for that situation to alter were Otliensians to have points taken off them.
Whether any action is taken against either club or any of their players will be down to the Northern Competitions Committee after they have read the referee’s report and, potentially, taken witness statements from both clubs.
Any action against the spectator would be down to an Old Otliensians committee meeting.
Some members of the yorkshirerugby.net forum feel that Otliensians deserve the title regardless of what happened last weekend as they have been the best team, although others feel they should be punished for spectator encroachment.
But there is also a feeling that the club should not be made to pay for the action of one spectator who was only trying to protect his son when he was involved with two Ossett players, and question what they would do as parents if they were put in the same situation.