THE president of the Sydney Convicts gay rugby union team has invited NSW Waratahs’ Jacques Potgieter to a training session with the team following the hefty fine the back rower received for his homophobic slurs during Sunday’s match against the ACT Brumbies.

The Convicts — Australia’s first gay rugby team and the world’s most successful, having won the Bingham Cup gay rugby world tournament four times — also praised Australian Rugby Union (ARU) for acting swiftly to investigate and resolve reports of homophobic slurs that were lodged by the Brumbies, after team member David Pocock first took his concerns to referee Craig Joubert during Sunday’s match.

Yesterday, Potgieter was given a $20,000 fine for using homophobic language during the game. Audio from game showed “faggot” was used twice against other players.

Of the total fine, $10,000 was suspended. This means that while Potgieter will only pay $10,000 for this incident, if he breaches ARU’s Code of Conduct or Inclusion Policy again, he will be fined another $10,000.

The disciplinary action was determined after an investigation by ARU’s Integrity Unit when the matter was referred to them by South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby (SANZAR).

Potgieter expressed remorse and apologised for his actions, and it was determined the incident would not be heard by a tribunal.

In statement, the Convicts said his penalty was “high enough to send a strong message to those who may consider using homophobic language”.

“The homophobic slurs made by NSW Waratahs player Jacques Potgieter are very disappointing and have no place on the sporting field,” Convicts president Robert McPherson said.

“We often find that people using this kind of language don’t fully understand the harmful effects it can have on those around them, particularly those struggling to accept their own sexuality.

“We would welcome Jacques to come down to meet the boys and hear their stories, which is why we will invite him to join us for a few of our training sessions.

“He would quickly recognise that being gay has no impact on a person’s ability to play rugby or their passion for the game.”

Andrew Purchas, the founder of the Convicts and president of last year’s Sydney Bingham Cup tournament, played a leading role in coordinating the historic, joint commitment by all the major sports, including the ARU, to eliminate homophobia in sport in April last year.

One of the objectives of the Anti-Homophobia and Inclusion Framework which the codes signed was the “eradication of homophobic actions, discrimination, abuse, or harassment on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation”.

“We applaud the Australian Rugby Union and the Waratahs for acting so quickly to investigate and resolve this matter and reinforcing their commitment to eradicate homophobia in rugby and providing a positive environment for all,” Purchas said.

“It is certainly disappointing that this event occurred at all and it highlights the ongoing need for all sports to be actively engaged in eliminating homophobia.”

“It is only relatively recently that Australian sports have started to focus on elimination of homophobia. To achieve the change required it will be an ongoing process and it will require commitment from the top down and the grass roots up.

“We applaud David Pocock for speaking out when he heard these comments. He is a great example for all athletes, coaches and officials. It is critical that people speak up when they hear homophobic comments and make it clear this kind of language is unacceptable.”

The ARU has worked closely with Australia’s gay and inclusive rugby teams the Sydney Convicts, Melbourne Chargers and Brisbane Hustlers.

The Waratahs and NSW Rugby have also been supportive and many players from these teams and others around Australia, including the Melbourne Rebels and Queensland Reds, have supported and participated in LGBTI events around the country. For example, The Waratahs’ Adam Ashley-Cooper was a Bingham Cup ambassador while Israel Folau was an official supporter.

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