YORK City Knights boss James Ford fears the Rugby Football League’s disciplinary panel have set a “dangerous precedent” in upholding Ash Robson’s six-match suspension for spitting despite having “no clear evidence”.

Robson – who previously had a clean disciplinary record having never even been sin-binned - was found guilty at a disciplinary hearing a fortnight ago of spitting at Whitehaven player Chris Taylor in the League One clash at Bootham Crescent in mid-June.

The suspension was upheld after appeal last week, and means former York Acorn ARLC junior Robson will miss the rest of the Super 8s and only play again this year if the Knights reach the play-offs.

However, Ford, speaking about the appeal for the first time, insists there was no clear evidence of guilt - suggesting the disciplinary panel came to their conclusions at best on the chances of probability, judging Taylor’s reactions on the pitch, and in simply believing his account of events over Robson’s.

The Appeals Tribunal itself stated in its report that the panel was “left in the position with regards this case, about which version of events they believe to be most credible”.

Its statement on the RFL disciplinary website says that “Mr Taylor has given a consistent account of his version of events all the way through the investigation and subsequent hearing”.

Ford said of the decision: “It’s really disappointing, for Ashley firstly, for the team and for the club.

“We respect the disciplinary panel have a difficult job to do and they do the best they can.

“It worries me that they don’t need conclusive evidence to find somebody guilty and hand down a six-match ban.

“There was no clear evidence to find Ashley guilty and I think it’s a dangerous precedent. It worries me for the long-term future of the game, and the short- and medium-term.”

The video evidence from the match DVD, as seen by the disciplinary panel, is below.

According to the RFL report, the allegation of spitting was made by Taylor, who showed the referee saliva on his arm after the alleged incident occurred, albeit after being involved in a subsequent tackle. It occurred during the build-up to a Knights try, scored in the 66th minute by Brad Hey.

No other Whitehaven player made statements. Three York players submitted statements saying they saw the majority of the incident but did not see any spitting. The match officials did not see any spitting but saw saliva on the player’s arm afterwards.

Former Castleford starlet Robson was represented during the hearings by club chairman Jon Flatman, who told the panel there was no conclusive evidence to suggest the player had committed the offence, saying it was one person’s word against another.

According to the report of the hearing, Flatman added that “despite the player receiving what the player and club would believe to be unnecessary treatment from opposition teams due to the player having played at a higher level, the player never reacts which is displayed in his exemplary disciplinary record of never even having been sin-binned”.

In the panel’s original decision to ban Robson, they stated: “The Investigation Report indicates there was an after-match admission and apology by the player (Robson). It has been submitted no one else saw this incident. When the DVD is viewed it is clear the officials and others near are following the play.

“This tribunal heard from the opponent (Taylor) during the hearing and found him to be a compelling witness who gave an account of what occurred that was consistent with the account he gave initially after he made the allegation.

“This tribunal can see no reason to disbelieve the opponent’s account of what occurred and find the charge proved against this player.”

Robson “wholeheartedly” denied spitting and that the after-match discussion with Taylor took place.

Ford added: “Upholding a ban with no clear evidence and one person’s word against another – I’m not sure where things will go with that.

“How did the saliva get there? Whose was it? The Crown Prosecution Service would not take it to court, that’s for sure.

“They (the disciplinary committee) probably need to have a look at it between them and try to come up with a system that’s probably going to be better and more sturdy in the long-term.”

The full findings of the disciplinary and appeals hearings can be found at www.rugby-league.com/the_rfl/disciplinary