By Shaun Gillham
THE Nelson Mandela Bay Equality Court has had to blow full time on a bitter spat between two Port Elizabeth rugby referees by red-carding a former provincial and international referee for apparently attempting to sideline his opposition.
Last week the court warned Frans Muller, who has served as an official at the Rugby World Cup, about allegedly harassing fellow referee Trevor Ryan by spreading malicious slander both “verbally and in written formats” to various individuals, schools, institutions and clubs in Nelson Mandela Bay.
“You have also influenced some institutions outside of your jurisdiction not to appoint the complainant to officiate in sports events,” the presiding judge said.
Muller, who represents the Eastern Province Rugby Referees’ Society (EPRRS) and refereed three test matches and officiated at the 2003 Rugby World Cup, was also warned to refrain from such activities – the non-compliance of which would lead to the issue being forwarded to a magistrate of a formal enquiry.
Ryan, a lower league referee and contract lecturer at the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan University, has been embroiled in the long-running dispute with both Muller and other members of the EPRRS since 2008 and has brought the spat into the public domain through letters published in the media, including the Weekend Post.
At the core of the acrimony are allegations of dishonesty, nepotism and a form of favouritism which Ryan leveled at EPRRS during 2008.
His refereeing abilities were also subsequently called into question in various media by both rugby pundits and parents.
When contacted this week, Muller told Weekend Post he wanted nothing to do with Ryan and preferred not to comment on the issue, especially since he did not want to address the problem in the public domain.
However, Muller, who pointed out that Ryan was not a member of EPRRS, made it clear that the breach of peace judgment was not the end of the issue as it was being dealt with by lawyers representing the Eastern Province Rugby Union.
But Ryan insisted that he had been victimised.
In an earlier letter to the Weekend Post, Ryan said: “Just to let everybody know that Frans Muller, chairman of the EP Rugby Union Referees’ Society, has been served with a breach of peace court order from the magistrate of the equality court, ordering him to withdraw all his malicious, slanderous and injurious statements that he made about me to each and every rugby-playing school and club in the Eastern Cape, where he instructed/intimidated them to not appoint me to officiate in lower league events which are not even part of his jurisdiction, and to refrain from such actions in future.”
Ryan went on to point out that Muller had not signed acceptance of the court interdict but that it was still legally binding.
This is a version of an article that first appeared in the print edition of Weekend Post on Saturday July 28 2012.