Case Number:


Adam Doueihi #6, Lebanon


Men's Rugby League World Cup


New Zealand v Lebanon

Match Date:



Foul and abusive language to the match official



Charge Detail:

Law 15.1(f) Foul and/or abusive language towards a Match Official Grade A


1 Match Penalty Notice

Decision On Charge

Player plea:

Not Guilty (admits abusive language was used, but disputes what was said)

Summary of CM's submissions on the Charge / evidence:

Following a Match Review Panel meeting held on 17 October 2022, you are charged with misconduct for a breach of Law 15.1(f) – “Uses offensive or obscene language” of the RLWC2021 On Field Compliance Procedures and Sentencing Guidelines (a copy of which are attached to this letter) during the above Match. The Panel reviewed an incident which occurred in approximately the Opta Time 01 23 27 of the above Match. You were dismissed following the incident. The Referee’s Report states that you verbalised the words; “**** me ****” towards him. In the Panel’s opinion you used foul and/or offensive language towards a Match Official. The Panel believed that your actions were contrary to the true spirit of the game. In accordance with the RLWC2021 On Field Compliance Procedures and Sentencing Guidelines, the Panel consider that such offence is a Grade A offence – “Foul and/or abusive language towards a Match Official”. The Match Review Panel consider that this matter should be dealt with by way of a Notice of Charge. As such, the appropriate sanction is determined with reference to Section 7.1 of the RLWC2021 On Field Compliance Procedures and Sentencing Guidelines under which the Normal Suspension Imposed for this offence is 1 Match. The Match Review Panel were concerned at the behaviour of Mr Doueihi towards the match referee Grant Atkins. • After a restart, Mr Doueihi is dismissed from the field of play by Mr Atkins. • The referee’s report states the following: Following a kick off by Lebanon, a catch was taken by New Zealand. At this point the above player, disagreeing with the decision to play on verbalized towards me “**** me ****”. It was obvious that the dissent was targeted at me for not penalizing New Zealand in that play. The moment I heard the above player make this comment to me, I dismissed him from the field. • It is clear from the footage that Mr Doueihi is in close proximity to the referee. • The Match Review Panel see no reason to disbelieve the referee. • The language was foul and abusive, containing two expletives and amounted to a direct attack towards Mr Atkins. • Referees are integral to the sport and must be respected. Section 1.2 of the Sentencing Guidelines – “The disciplinary system must support and protect Match Officials”. • Mr Doueihi’ s standards have fallen below what is expected of a player and amount to Misconduct. When questioning referee Grant Atkins (GA), Mr Atkins states following a KO from Lebanon, which was a shortish KO, NZ took position. There was a dispute about decision, and he heard Adam Doueihi (AD) say ‘**** me ****’, and GA was certain this was said. After which point, he blew for a penalty and dismissed AD from the field. AD looked back and left with no complaint immediately. Mitchell Moses (MM) approached, GA states he explained the situation and returned to his position. GA confirms AD had not said anything prior to this. When the words were said GA states he was heading back towards AD’s direction. GA states he wasn’t looking at him when the words were said, however he was certain it was AD. GA confirms player was 5 or 6 metres away from him. GA states he only saw AD and no other players in the vicinity. GA confirms it was said in a tone directed at him and this was said reasonably loud, and in his opinion was targeted and such words came across in an aggressive manner. After the dismissal AD said nothing further. He looked back but walked off without any further remonstration. GA confirms he said to MM who approached to dispute the lack of penalty. Stated he wasn’t willing to argue this point given the more serious dissent that had occurred. After which MM returned to his position. MM did not ask GA what was said, and GA did not repeat to MM what was said. GA confirms he has come across AD previously from his experience as an NRL referee since 2009. AD in response to questions by GW agrees the use of the word ‘****ing’ is foul language. Felt it was strange to be sent off for what was said, says there has never been a sending off overturned, so didn’t feel it necessary to clarify or remonstrate further. He also saw his captain discussing with GA at this point. AD stated he found out after the game GA thought he had used the word ‘****’. He states he spoke with GA after the match to apologise and clarify what he had said, and the word ‘****’ wasn’t used. Robbie Farrah (RF) in response to GW states the referee was no less than 15 metres from the incident. RF states he didn’t feel what he heard justified a sending off. MM in response to GW states he heard the phrase ‘give us a ****ing call’. MM states he did not know exactly what GA thought he had heard. Michael Cheika (MC) in response to GW states he has known AD since he was born, and to say such a word would be out of his nature. His focus after the incident was on the game and looking to reorganise due to being a man down. He spoke to the officials on the side-line for an explanation at the time. MC says he did not see AD again until after the game. He stated he asked AD what was said first before being made aware the allegation of the word ‘****’. Afterwards when told what had been alleged AD was very upset by this. GW to Mr Crystal asks in reference to the document provided by Mr McGuire, has he seen and signed this. Confirmed this was correct. Noted by GW the misspelling of the surname within the statement. GW in closing states this is a case whether GA can be believed. The MRP have no reason to disbelief Mr Atkins version of events. Respected and experienced referee. Adamant AD was the one who spoke, familiar with the player and has spent time in his company. Saw AD immediately and no protest from the player. GA provided the opportunity to correct him after saying you cannot call me the C word. MM also does not remonstrate, despite hearing what AD has said. MM states he heard clearly what was said, and it could be argued other players were closer. Statements provided are word perfect, and they are likely to support their player. AD’s conduct in the dressing room shows the actions of someone who knows what he has done. GA is the only independent witness on the call. Lebanon have not denied the shouting, just that the word ‘****’ was not used. GA has nothing to gain from fabricating this story where as AD would miss a match for his country.

Summary of Player's submissions on the Charge / evidence:

In response to being out of character. GA confirms he wouldn’t expect such language in normal conversation, unable to make an assessment whether this would be out of character for AD. Confirms historically he had not received dissent from AD before. Mr Crystal confirms, as can be seen from the footage shown, Robbie Farah was in close proximity. GA confirms he cannot recall this. Physio Tony Ayoub, Mr Crystal confirms Tony was also on the pitch at the same time, around 5 to 7 metres from the play. GA confirms he also doesn’t recall Tony being there. GA confirms he knows Mitchell, references that in the video MM throws his arms in the air. GA confirms he doesn’t recall any dissent from MM. In response to Mr Crystal GA confirms he completed his report upon his return to Manchester. This was at 11.10pm on the same evening, with the game finishing around 9.30pm. Mr Crystal reading the contents of GA’s report. GA confirms he doesn’t recall whether multiple players disagreed with the decision to play on. This is a possibility, but this is not uncommon during a game. GA confirms he wasn’t looking at AD at the time the comment was made, as he was keeping an eye on the ball. GA confirms at the moment he believed Lebanon thought they should have received a penalty for an escort run by a NZ player. GA agrees that in his report he referred to this as dissent not abusive language, this is in relation to his experience from completing reports in the NRL. In reference to AD’s witness statement which is read out. He firstly yelled out ‘give us a ****ing call’, followed by him addressing MM by saying **** me challenge. GA in reference to AD saying, ‘give us a ****ing call’, GA confirms he does not recall that. In response to the comment from AD to MM, GA states he does not recall that either. GA refutes a mistake was made and does not agree with the alternative version of events and is adamant the word ‘****’ was used. Mr Crystal in reference to proximity asks GA if he was wearing a microphone. GA confirms this is correct. GA adds that the microphone does pick up audio, however a technical issue has led to the phrasing not being picked up. GA confirms for a 10-minute period the audio was not picked up clearly. Mr Crystal says the audio would be helpful for the tribunal to be comfortably satisfied what was said. Mr Crystal states his belief he does not belief GA was ever within 10 meters of AD. Mr Crystal states it is a possibility what was said was misheard, GA refutes this again. GA confirms MM did speak with him but reiterates he did not say to MM what AD had said to him. GA confirms he said to AD after the card was shown ‘you’re not going to call me the C word on the field’ whilst pointing to the tunnel. Mr Crystal states that AD refutes the claim GA said you’re not going to call me the C word. AD states he is 24, played 81 NRL games across 4 seasons, is in the leadership group of the West Tigers in the NRL. He has one previous disciplinary in Sept 2020, which was a shoulder charge grade 1, resulting in him being suspended for 1 week. AD states he kicks off with a short kick, he felt a few times previously players were being obstructed. He felt players moved off the mark, and were frustrated at no call, he believed his own players were impeded. Not directed towards anyone, he yelled ‘give us a ****ing call’. In the NRL captains call exists and in this case, he spoke to MM and asked him to do something about it, stating something along the lines of ‘****ing challenge it’. He headed back towards the side-line, after that he saw GA blow the whistle and dismiss him straight away. He states GA was 15-20 meters away at this point. After the card he put his head down and started to walk off the field. RF was next to him, at the time the commentator believed RF was sent off not AD. AD believed he was sent off for abusive language for saying ‘give us a ****ing call’. AD states he is unsure if he would have expected to get sent off for saying such words. RF under questioning by Mr Crystal states his role is to pick up the kicking tee. He was 3 to 4 meters behind the kick chase line and watched the play unfold. He remonstrated due to the lack of decision for obstruction, play then unfolds and as he is running off towards the side-line AD is moving with him towards his defensive position. He heard AD say, ‘give us a ****ing call’, after that whistle was blown which, he did not understand. He saw GA show the red card to AD and did not understand what the sending off was for at the time. States he never heard the word ‘****’ used. RF reiterates, as he had yelled out in frustration, the commentators thought it may have been him that was dismissed. He does not believe anything was said that would justify a sending off. RF says he did not think to approach the referee as that was not his role and he was some distance away. Believes GA was no less than 15 metres away when his whistle was blown. Tony Ayoub (TA) under questioning by Mr Crystal states he was running off the field 5 to 10 metres from the side-line watching AD kick off. Admits he was also frustrated by the call. Reiterated he heard the phrase ‘give us a ****ing call’ by AD. Mitchel Moses (MM) under questioning by Mr Crystal states he was standing near the referee at KO. Felt they were run off the ball, throws his hands in the air to remonstrate, AD runs past him and yells ‘give us a ****ing call’ followed by AD saying to him something along the lines of ‘**** me challenge it’ to him. States AD was 15 metres from GA at the time the yelling occurred. States he approached the referee to discuss the lack of penalty, heard GA say you can’t speak to me like that. Asked GA about the lack of penalty, and states GA said something along the lines of don’t worry about that and referenced the dissent. Michel Cheika (MC) states he did not hear what was said prior to the sending off. At the end of the game MC states he spoke to AD after the game and asked what he had said to GA. Confirms AD said he said, ‘give us a ****ing call’ and was upset about missing the last 20 minutes of the game. MC states he also spoke with RF as he thought he was the one that had been sent off. Confirms that RF had reiterated the same phrasing ‘give us a ****ing call’. He had also spoken with TA and the same phrase was given. Mr Crystal states MC has said the behaviour was unlike AD. There is a difference of recollection between the referee and a number of witnesses. All the witness’s immediate recollection has not changed, and that the word ‘****’ had not been used. It is put forward it would mean within a few minutes of the game coming to an end a number of individuals had agreed a story and persisted with that when asked by MC. In a loud environment it is possible for people to mishear. There is very little difference in wording between what one party have said they have said and what has been heard. Both individuals know each other and have never had any difficulties previously. The Panel must be reasonably satisfied with what has been said. The referee’s character is not questioned but put forward that he is mistaken. The referee in his own admission states he was not looking at AD. There is an absence of supporting evidence to support GA’s version of events. The absence of protest by AD should not be deemed as indicative that guilt has occurred. This comes down to a four-letter word, and it is submitted that there is not enough evidence for the Panel to be comfortably satisfied, and the referee has made an honest mistake in terms of what has been heard. This is a world event and very important to AD that he can be as involved as he can. Mr Crystal in closing states the problem is who to believe. It is recognised the referee believes what he heard whether he did must be considered a matter of doubt. If there is doubt that should be resolved in favour of AD. The consistent statements should be a guide that a mistake has taken place.



Reasons for Decision:

When the ball was caught by the New Zealand player from the pre-planned short kick off, it is clear that frustrations were mounting in the Lebanese players. What we have to decide is how far Mr Doueihi went in expressing his frustrations and whether he crossed the boundary by using language that was foul and abusive, and amounted to a direct attack towards the referee Grant Atkins. There is a stark contrast in the evidence that we have heard. On the one hand we have an experienced match official with personal knowledge on Mr Doueihi alleging that he said to him the words ‘**** me ****’. On the other hand, we have Mr Doueihi and his captain and 2 of his coaches say that he used the words ‘give us a ****ing call’ towards the referee and then ‘****ing me challenge it’ to his captain. No one is questioning the integrity of the referee, there can be no doubt that he thought that he had heard Mr Doueihi say the words ‘**** me ****’, all the parties agree that this must be the case; there is also no doubt to us that he acted immediately upon it and sent him immediately from the field. But what happened at this point is in our view the most telling part of this case. The referee made it clear that he then spoke with Mr Doueihi he stated Adam looked at me and I continued to point to the tunnel, and he looked at me and I said that you are not gonna call me the C word. We are satisfied that this was said to Mr Doueihi, the referee made it clear that he wanted to say something for the audio as he sees that as an opportunity to make as near to a contemporaneous note of events as he can. He also made it clear that he used the expression C word as he didn’t want to repeat the offending word in case that could be heard on the television broadcast. But importantly for us, he, having said that to the player there was no complaint, no denial not even a request for clarification. Not from Mr Doueihi, not from his captain, not from either of the coaches that have been called. None of them recall the referee ever using this expression or clarifying in any way why he was sending him off; we find it hard to understand why no one sought to challenge his dismissal or question or seek to clarify it when what they say they heard could not have amounted to a good reason to dismiss one of their better players at what was a crucial point in the match. Accordingly, the Panel do not accept the evidence that has been called on his behalf – we recognise the burden and the standard of proof required in this case and we are comfortably satisfied that Mr Atkins was not mistaken about the words that he says Mr Doueihi used accordingly we find the allegation proven. Mr Doueihi will now receive a 1 match ban in accordance with the penalty notice that was served by the MRP.

Decision On Sanction (where found to have committed Misconduct)


Decision pending...


1 match

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