Matt Hart, the agent of Saracens and England international Maro Itoje, has been suspended for 22 months after placing 1,476 bets, via a bet365 account, on rugby matches over the course of a three and a half year period.
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) registered agent who works for the Stellar Group Limited, was found to have placed the bets between 7 January 2013 and 31 July 2016, and was also guilty of failing “cooperate fully and accurately” when requested by an RFU Anti-Corruption Officer.
Referencing a sample of ten bets placed between 6 March 2016 and 23 April 2016, the independent disciplinary panel found each to exceed £10,000, the highest of which was placed on the final day of the Six Nations in 2016 and valued at £16,234.59.
Alys Lewis, RFU Anti-Corruption Officer, said: “This decision unequivocally demonstrates that any activity which undermines the integrity of our sport, and exposes players and rugby to potential integrity issues, will be treated seriously by the RFU.
“The sums of money involved and the frequency and duration of the betting, coupled with the lack of cooperation with the RFU’s investigation, have all contributed to a substantial suspension from rugby union which is welcomed by the RFU.”
Hart, who was under no suspicion of using inside information or trying to influence a match or its outcome, argued that the bets were placed on behalf of his father David.
However, the panel found that “ it appears that the account was very substantially funded from elsewhere, as well as stating that Hart was “evasive and unclear in answers”.
With the independent panel stating: “We conclude that it is implausible that Matthew Hart was so naïve and never even questioned whether he should be conducting himself in the way he did.”
Adding: “Despite the absence here of inside information used to make the bets there remains an obvious and significant damage to the integrity of the game. Matthew Hart was, through his role as an agent, linked to a number of first class rugby players.
“His betting on rugby matches and on some occasions on games which involved some of those players, exposed both the players and the game of rugby to potential integrity issues.”
The suspension will begin with immediate effect and end on 11 February 2020.