Gloucester and Samoa Rugby Union player Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu stood before a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel receiving a 3 week ban for comments made on the social network site Twitter. Bristol, UK. 7th November 2011
On Monday 7th November 2011 at Bristol Holiday Inn Hotel, Samoan international Rugby Union player Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu who plays his club rugby for English Aviva Premiership side Gloucester Rugby, stood before a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel to face three charges of "conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game" in relation to statements made on his personal Twitter account.
The panel made up of RFU disciplinary officers Daniel White, Mike Curling and John Doubleday found Eliota guilty of two of the three charges laid against him and banned for three weeks. The implications of this is however could be far more severe as purely being found guilty of the charges may prompt the International Rugby Board to trigger a 6 month suspended ban imposed for similar breaches of conduct during the Rugby World Cup 2011. Eliota has publicly stated that if such a long ban were imposed for what he deemed to be fair comments, then he would consider walking away from the sport of Rugby altogether. As he left the hearing Eliota told journalists, after being asked if this would be the end of the matter, simply "I hope so." The IRB may not be so leniant after warning the player that any comments deemed to be aimed against the disciplinary process or referees would activate his ban immeditely.
After Eliotas departure from the hearing, RFU Media Manager Dave Barton gave a statement to TV cameras. As many news outlet had reported that the RFU could activate the IRB's suspended ban, he was keen to point out that this was in fact not the case. The nights RFU led hearing was entirely separate and it will be up to the IRB to impose their own additional sanction if they believe it to be necessary.