LONDON (AP) — Family members meeting up on New Year's Eve is routine and unlikely to arouse suspicions — unless you are brothers on rival sports teams playing the next day.
Sale Sharks, a northern English rugby team, said Tuesday it had suspended winger Tom Arscott after accusing him of leaking information to the opposition. That team, Bristol, featured Tom's brother Luke in the squad on New Year's Day and beat Sale 24-23 in the Premiership.
And Sale players were worried by the previous evening's brotherly encounter, reporting their concerns to director of rugby Steve Diamond.
"I knew nothing about it," Diamond said. "The squad picked it up, came and saw me, asked what should be done, and we had to go down this route."
Tom Arscott used to play alongside Luke at Bristol until 2010 and Sale is suggesting he had split loyalties in making a complaint to the Rugby Football Union.
"If you do your own analysis, you probably don't need the information, because teams do the same most weeks," Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond said. "But in the same breath, I think there's an element of trust you need, and loyalty."
When signing a sports contract, Diamond stressed: "Information is sacrosanct to the team's performance and that can't be discussed, certainly with opposition teams."
Even during small talk with the family.
Neither of the brothers played in the match. Luke was an unused replacement and Tom was not included in Sale's match-day squad.
Bristol thinks the investigation is preposterous.
"Tom Arscott and Luke Arscott met on New Year's Eve at the team hotel, which is not unusual, for family living in different parts of the country to meet up," Bristol head coach Mark Tainton said.
"We're more than happy for them to meet up beforehand and have a conversation."
Unlike brother Tom, Luke Arscott continues to have the backing of his team.
"Following the conversation between the brothers, nothing was said or passed to the Bristol coaches of any sporting value, nor did it change the strategy in which we approached the game in any way, shape or form," Tainton said.
"As a club, we are entirely confident we have not acted in a way that is against the spirit and values of rugby. We are disappointed in how this episode has been handled so publicly, especially considering there has been no contact from Sale Sharks to date."