STATEMENT: Chairman strongly reiterates view on Wembley referee selection

St.Helens R.F.C. Chairman, Eamonn McManus, has reaffirmed his view on the RFL’s selection of Robert Hicks as the match referee for the Coral Challenge Cup Final as being unwise and inappropriate given the worrisome background events that occurred.

Following the RFL’s statement that they will be referring the Saints’ Chairman’s matchday programme comments to their Compliance Team, McManus has released the following statement:

“My matchday programme notes seem to have created a lot of heat and light, which is probably a good thing as the core issue at hand could not be more serious for our game.

“Firstly I reiterate my expressed congratulations to Warrington Wolves who were worthy winners of the Challenge Cup.

“I was very clearly making the point that Robert Hicks had been placed in an invidious position due to recent death threats from a Warrington fan and his subsequent close dealings with that fan and the Warrington Club in the period leading up to the Challenge Cup Final. He also appeared voluntarily on an ITV interview shortly before the game to explain this experience in some detail to express how upset he and his family had been by this.

“It is impossible to assess to what extent he had been emotionally affected by this during his high profile dealings with Warrington and their fan. For that reason he should not have been appointed in such a high pressure and demanding and game in which Warrington were a participating club. Perceptions of even handedness and impartiality are as important as reality. This can be no more so than in the instance of refereeing where integrity and the perception of integrity is paramount. No other professional sport would have made such an appointment given these prior disturbing events and facts.

“It was therefore inevitable that his decisions would be under heightened scrutiny from both sets of fans and that any incorrect decisions would be questioned at accentuated levels, particularly if any were inexplicable. This unfortunate and predictable scenario did indeed eventuate, and to the benefit of no one. It was entirely avoidable and should indeed have been avoided.

“I am certainly not causing anger by legitimately expressing my firmly held views, which are based on fact, common sense and good practice. I am merely reflecting very widely held views. I can only hope that some very obvious lessons are learnt from this by the RFL. We will continue our discussions with them on this and other related matters, at all the appropriate levels.

“I also look forward to hearing from the RFL’s Compliance team to which it seems I have been referred, although I have not been informed why and for what.”

McManus and the club will be making no further comment on this matter at this time.

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