Last week I wrote about how Cardiff Rugby and the Welsh Rugby Union had questions to answer over their handling of the Cory Hill incident last May whereby he was part of a group of men who damaged a house while intoxicated late at night leaving a woman and her two young children inside fearing for their lives.
While Hill’s behaviour on a personal level has clearly come into question, as have the actions of South Wales Police amid accusations they swept the incident under the carpet with Hill being a Welsh international rugby player, I wondered how justified it was that he was selected to play for Cardiff against Zebre and in Wales’ summer international squad the weekend following the incident.
Unless neither Cardiff or the WRU were made aware of the incident until after that weekend, and perhaps the incident led directly to Hill departing for the Yokohama Cannon Eagles in Japan over the summer, then I could not understand how he was selected by particularly Cardiff who have been keen to extol their values as a professional club in the community in recent years.
Well subsequently I have had sight of a series of e-mails regarding the incident that, in my view, show Cardiff’s handling of the incident to be shockingly far below the standard expected of a professional rugby club supported by thousands, including a large number of young men and boys who idolise the players taking the field at the Arms Park.
The e-mails show that the victim herself contacted the club the day following the incident and described in quite distressing detail how she was “banging on my wall to alert my neighbour desperate for someone to come and help us”, how she “told my child to hide with the baby and at no point was to come out of the hiding place” while barely being able to ring 999.
They also confirm that Hill told the police that “someone in the street owed him rent money that hadn’t been paid in three months”, but that him and his group had identified the wrong house, making it a pre-meditated decision to damage a property and intimidate the occupant, but that it was bungled either due to intoxication or stupidity, perhaps both.
On Monday morning, 31st May, Cardiff respond to the victim making an apology for “what you have experienced” and stating that “we would take an incident like this very seriously and do not condone the behaviour you have mentioned”, before stating that they will investigate and clarifying facts before making any comment.
Two days later on Wednesday 2nd June, the club contact the victim again with the following e-mail;
Thank you for your patience and understanding following our brief exchange on Monday morning. We are all very sorry to hear what your children and yourself experienced in the early hours of Monday and hope you are now at ease in your home.
We have undertaken an investigation and spoken at length to Cory Hill at a disciplinary meeting, following his involvement. We understand Cory was spoken to by the police but he was not arrested and no further action is being taken.
However, Cory was told in no uncertain terms, and fully accepts, that his behaviour was not in line with that of a professional sportsperson and did not reflect Cardiff Rugby’s cultural values.
This was entirely out of character for Cory, who has otherwise been an excellent role model, and he is extremely remorseful for the part he played.
While clearly under the influence of alcohol, Cory strongly refutes the suggestion that drugs were involved and indeed as a professional sportsman he is regularly tested.
We have warned Cory around his future conduct and liaised with the WRU, who are aware of the incident, and he would like to unreservedly apologise to you.
If there is anything further I can do, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
While I don’t doubt the apologies are sincere, the fact that it comes via e-mail is an impersonal approach, but that’s not the issue here for me. It’s the time it took to “investigate” and the punishment that the “investigation” reached being deemed appropriate.
Two days to fully look into the circumstances surrounding the incident, including speaking to Cory Hill, the victim and the police, before a disciplinary panel including independent representation assessing all that information and deciding on a punishment is highly unlikely, verging on impossible.
Already this puts the integrity of the investigation of the back foot, even before the fact that it reached the conclusion that a warning about his future conduct was sufficient for an incident whereby he drunkenly chose to attend a house to cause damage and intimidate the occupant, and ended up causing a woman and her two young children to fear for their lives.
For Hill to then go on and be selected by Cardiff for the following weekend’s game against Zebre, a dead rubber game in a dead rubber competition as it happens, is staggeringly poor on the club’s behalf, even before considering that the WRU sanctioned his inclusion in the Wales national team squad.
Above and beyond that it also sends a message out to supporters, particularly young male supporters, that this behaviour is not as serious as it undoubtedly is. At this current time with the focus on male violence against women it’s incredible that the club haven’t made any comment on the incident since the media reported on it last week.
It also makes last week’s announcement about Cardiff supporting an NSPCC campaign on keeping children safe in sport completely hollow and borderline hypocritical when they don’t properly punish a player who caused two children to feel unsafe in their own home.
Hopefully the club will now make a statement in regards to their actions in dealing with the Cory Hill incident and hold a review of their disciplinary procedures to ensure that any future incidents are properly investigated and punished, in order to prove that the “cultural values” that Cardiff Rugby supposedly hold are not completely worthless and ignored in favour of keeping star players happy and getting results.