Criminal convictions for French international, Mohamed Haouas

Sentenced consecutively to two prison terms for different offences, the international rugby player Mohamed Haouas is put in the stands. For how long?

His contract with Montpellier Hérault Club was due to expire in the summer of 2023, and he had signed a 3-year deal with ASM Clermont-Auvergne, but the international player, who had already been convicted of theft, has seen his career called into question by two successive cases.

The first case concerns the assault on his wife, for which, on 30 June 2023, the Montpellier Criminal Court sentenced the player to 18 months in prison, including 9 months suspended on probation, for domestic violence.

This conviction prompted the Auvergne club to terminate his employment contract early to preserve its image. At the same time, the player was also dropped from the French rugby team. The French Sports Minister, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, supported the Federation’s decision.

The employee claims court of Clermont-Ferrand was then asked by the club to suspend Mohamed Haouas’ employment contract. The court ruled that the club’s claim was “admissible”, but that it was “unfounded”. However, a settlement agreement was reached between the parties. ASM agreed to pay the player financial compensation for the termination of his contract. This discreet negotiation, sheltered from comment, surely sets a precedent for similar cases.

The player then bounced back to second division club Biarritz Olympique, with whom he signed a two-year contract.

While Mr Haouas had found a club, he was caught up in a second case. The Montpellier Criminal Court sentenced Mr Haouas to eighteen months in prison, nine of which were unsuspended, for “aggravated violencecommitted nearly 10 years ago. The player and his lawyer have decided to appeal against this decision.

In a rare occurrence for a professional rugby player, the prison sentences against him are adding up. This raises the question of the compatibility of his career as a professional rugby player and the execution of his sentences. The French international player should serve at least part of his sentence under an electronic bracelet. In any case, this is the wish of his lawyer, who hopes that Mohamed Haouas will first be able to serve his prison sentence in an adapted form (electronic bracelet or parental parole), while the Court of Appeal renders its decision, which could take two years.

We have to point out that the legal framework for professional sports competitions is very thin on the subject of electronic bracelets.

On the one hand, cases of professional players wearing electronic bracelets are very rare. To date, only one case exists in rugby league, that of Olivier Charles, who played with an electronic bracelet by taking advantage of a loophole in the national rugby league rules during the 2007-2008 season, while serving a sentence for a series of minor offences. This is currently the only comparable case since the beginning of the professional era.

On the other hand, if we look at the FFR and LNR rules, we can see that this point is not dealt with any better.

In fact, the minutes of the Federal Bureau meeting of 11 December 2019 already stated the following about a player wearing an electronic bracelet: “This is not a prohibited item, subject to physical arrangements to ensure that it does not cause injury. However, the question arises in relation to World Rugby, where the item is not necessarily authorised. Once must contact the insurance companies to check.”