(Photo: Getty Images)
By Adam Ellis
The agent of Maro Itoje and Taulupe Faletau has been suspended from rugby for 22 months by a RFU disciplinary panel for breaching betting regulations.
Over a three-year period, Matt Hart placed 1,476 bets on rugby markets using an account which had more than £650,000 deposited into it.
The registered agent also represents the likes of Ben Te’o, Marcus Smith and Ross Moriarty and will be unable to work in the sport until February 2020 as a result of the suspension.
“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,” RFU anti-corruption officer Alys Lewis said.
“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.”
In his defence, Hart claimed he had been pressured by his father to place the bets on his behalf in order to prevent his wife from finding out. A defence which the RFU accepted in parts with ’emotional pressure’ being placed on Hart by his father.
“Matt Hart had been put under real emotional pressure by his father to do so [place bets], in order to save his father’s relationship with his mother, and his own relationship with his father. The bets were funded by his father,” read the statement by the RFU.
Maro Itoje may now decide to seek representation by another agent of the Stellar Group which he is signed to. The Saracens and England lock’s current deal at Allianz Park is set to expire at the end of next season.
Contacts within the game told TRP last year it would be feasible for Itoje to become the Premiership’s first £1million player.