Media statement issued on behalf of the Independent Judicial Committee
The independent judicial committee which determined that Spain fielded an ineligible player in two Rugby World Cup 2023 qualifying matches has issued its full written decision.
Nigel Hampton QC (Chair), Pamela Woodman and Frank Hadden imposed a 10-point deduction and a fixed fine of £25,000. (World Rugby notes, as advised to the Committee, that a suspended fine of £50,000 relating to previous eligibility breaches during qualification for Rugby World Cup 2019 would also be payable).
Subject to Spain’s right of appeal, the 10-point deduction applied to the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification table means that Romania will qualify as Europe 2 into Pool B replacing Spain, and Portugal will replace Romania in the Final Qualification Tournament in November 2022.
Within its full written decision, the Committee determined:
- Gavin van den Berg had not been a "Resident" of Spain (meaning that Spain was not his primary and permanent home) for the necessary 36-month period before he played for Spain on 18 December, 2021 and 5 February, 2022.
- The reasons for the period of 127 days that he was out of Spain in the first year of that 36-month period did not amount to "exceptional circumstances" sufficient to allow him an exemption from being in Spain for at least 10 months in that year as required under Regulation 8.
- Accordingly, Gavin van den Berg was ineligible to be selected and to play.
- Representatives from the player’s club had apparently, without either Spain’s or the player’s knowledge, tampered with travel stamps in the player’s passport to make it seem that the player had not been out of Spain for more than two months (62 days) in that first year, to facilitate the player’s reclassification as a domestic player to benefit the club. However, notwithstanding the amended stamps, the player had been out of Spain for longer than the permitted period.
- The Committee imposed no penalty on Gavin van den Berg in the circumstances, on the basis that the failures leading to his offence were largely those of Spain in not putting in place certain appropriate systems and in not properly implementing other systems which had been put in place.
The Committee also noted that World Rugby had not ruled on the player’s eligibility, answering only a question as to whether an absence from Spain of 62 days in that first year would be within the period permitted under Regulation 8.
Spain has a right of appeal within 14 days of the full written decision and no further comment will be made until the completion of the process.