The RFL is to investigate a complaint about chief executive Ralph Rimmer’s controversial comments last week about the Fiji national team.
Speaking at the governing body’s annual awards evening and looking ahead to the World Cup, Rimmer said: “Fiji have already arrived. We don’t think anybody has been arrested yet, do we? No, we’re all right, so we are going pretty well then.”
It was announced last month that after more than twelve years at the RFL, and almost five as chief executive, Rimmer will leave in December.
But there have been calls for him to resign his £167,000-a-year role, or at least be suspended pending an investigation, after his comments last Monday (September 26).
The governing body confirmed a complaint has been received, and added in a statement: “The RFL Board has procedures in place as to how to respond, and the chair (Simon Johnson) is following those procedures. In accordance with those procedures, no other comment can be made.”
Many have argued the 56-year-old’s remarks contradict the RFL’s own ‘Tackle It’ anti-discrimination action plan.
And Troy Townsend, head of player engagement for Kick It Out, which aims to end all forms of discrimination within sport, tweeted: “When you believe you are untouchable you basically can say what you want, when you want, how you want, in front of who you want. I always wonder, what is said behind the scenes if someone is brazen enough to talk in this way publicly.”
Rimmer denied suggestions of racism, but apologised “unreservedly” in a statement, while also contacting the management team of Fiji, who play England in a warm-up match at the AJ Bell Stadium, Salford on Friday, to say sorry.
“I apologise unreservedly for a throwaway remark which I regretted as soon as I made it,” he said.
“There was no intention to malign the Fiji squad – in fact the context of the remark was my excitement that their arrival in the country marked the imminence of the World Cup competition, to which they have contributed so significantly and positively since 1995, on and off the field.”
In a Twitter poll organised by League Express editor Martyn Sadler, which drew 2,644 votes, 67 percent of respondents said Rimmer should resign, 18 percent that he should be suspended, eleven percent that his apology should be accepted and four percent that no action should be taken.
Rimmer’s comments came two days before further details of the sport’s strategic partnership with IMG were revealed and less than three weeks before the start of the World Cup.
The Cumbrian was chief executive of the original Sheffield Eagles club before taking up the same roe at Huddersfield Giants after the merger with the Eagles in late 1999. He also managed the Ireland national team between 1997 and 2002.
From 2004 until 2010, he was managing director of the Kirklees (now John Smith’s) Stadium.
Rimmer joined the RFL as chief operating officer in October 2010, and took over as chief executive in January 2018 on Nigel Wood’s departure.
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