RugbyNY, Headed By Pelham Coach, Orders Rye to Forfeit Game — Against Pelham

After the forfeit, Rye finished the season in third place behind Pelham in the league standings.

Rye’s nationally ranked rugby team had their postseason hopes dashed following a controversial suspension. Photo Steven Cao
Published June 7, 2024 2:34 PM
3 min read

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Rye High School’s nationally ranked boys’ rugby team has been suspended from postseason play and ordered to forfeit its game with Pelham – by an oversight body headed by the coach of the Pelham team.

Matt Persanis, president of RugbyNY and coach of the Pelham high school rugby team, said he did not file the complaint against Rye and did not participate in the decision by his group to forfeit Rye’s game against Pelham. RugbyNY also put Rye’s team on probation for next season.

RugbyNY members do not sit on disciplinary matters if they have “a competitive interest” in the outcome, he said.

RugbyNY said in a press release dated May 24 that the penalties were imposed by the group’s disciplinary committee, because a Rye player was not properly registered to play during the team’s game against Pelham. That game resulted in a 13-13 tie.

After the forfeit, Rye finished the season in third place behind Pelham in the league standings. The two teams otherwise would have finished in a tie.

Persanis, responding to questions by email, said there were three people on the disciplinary committee that penalized Rye, but they did not want to be identified.

“Pelham did not file the complaint. We were unaware of it,” Persanis said. He added that he was told that the player in question was penalized, and when the referee reported the matter, the player was not found in the system.

“I have had nothing to do with this process,” he said.

RugbyNY’s press release seemed to muddy the waters, suggesting that a player could register for a game retroactively. The release said RugbyNY consulted USA Rugby on the matter and was told that “there’s no block on putting someone onto a roster retrospectively.”

So then why wasn’t the Rye player put on the team roster retroactively? “The fact the system doesn’t prohibit the retroactive addition of a player is confusing and irrelevant,” Persanis responded by email.

He added that, “RugbyNY has asked USA Rugby to have its software prohibit this in the future.”

Rye school officials said they have appealed the RugbyNY decision, arguing that the penalty was too harsh.

RugbyNY said in a press release dated May 24 that the penalties were imposed by the group’s disciplinary committee, because a Rye player was not properly registered to play during the team’s game against Pelham.
Photo Steven Cao

Rye schools Superintendent Eric Byrne said “the school district is completely supportive of the rugby program and is working with the coaches and athletic staff to pursue this to the extent that we can.”

But Persanis said that Rye has not made a formal appeal. Any appeal would have to be made to USA Rugby, and that has not happened, he said.

The Rye coach, Jim O’Hara, “has proposed a change in the way they administer their team and has asked the [disciplinary committee] to reduce the time of probation, if they agree to those items he has proposed,” Persanis said. “The [disciplinary committee] is discussing it.”

O’Hara declined comment.

Playoff matches are scheduled to begin this weekend. Persanis said the one year of probation means that if Rye were violate the rules again, the punishment would be greater. “We are trying to work with them to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he wrote.

“Our goal at RugbyNY is to promote and facilitate rugby, we do not want to punish anyone,” Persanis wrote. “But we must be vigilant when it comes to registrations and complying with the filing of rosters and the registration process. Rye is not the only team to have been disciplined this year.”

Rye was ranked No. 21 in the nation as of May 29, though as of May 13 the team had been ranked as high as No. 17.

Pelham beat Rye last season, Rye won the match in 2022, and Pelham won in 2021. And Pelham defeated Rye in the state championship in 2019.

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