SJA protests at rugby club’s image doctoring claim

The SJA today expressed its disapproval at the manner in which French rugby club, Stade Francais, tried to blame a sports photographer for the disciplinary action being taken against one of its players.

Stade accused photographer Oliver McVeigh of doctoring his images to show the rugby club’s prop forward, David Attoub, gouging at the eye of Ulster player Stephen Ferris.

McVeigh, 48, a photographer of 28 years’ experience, works for Sportsfile, a Dublin-based agency. He was summoned to account today at the hearing at European Rugby Cup’s office to defend the authenticity of four photographs he took during Ulster’s 23-13 victory in Belfast last Saturday.

At the request of ERC, McVeigh also sent the four images to a department at the University of Manchester which specialises in the forensic analysis of images for the police and the legal profession.

“It is a nasty allegation which I totally refute,” McVeigh was quoted in today’s Daily Telegraph.

“It not only questions my integrity but also that of my agency. I was using a 500mm lens shooting pictures from the corner of the ground where the players access the pitch. I took about 38 images of the incident.

“It was only when I was reviewing the pictures in the media room after the match that I spotted the image of Attoub.

“I have sent the images to a forensic company that has the software that can identify whether the image has been manipulated in any way. I am more than happy to attend the hearing and state my case.”

Stade had two players, Attoub and Julien Dupuy, both cited after the match for gouging, widely regarded as the most heinous of foul offences in rugby.

Dupuy’s citing was based on television evidence showing him twice putting fingers into another player’s eye.

The hearing in Dublin was being staged after both players had apologised for their actions. Stade had also undertaken to implement its own disciplinary action against Attoub and Dupuy, irrespective of the verdict of the disciplinary hearing.

Scrum-half Dupuy, expected to be in the France national team for the Six Nations, was banned for six months by his disciplinary hearing, while Attoub’s hearing has been deferred until January while the photographic evidence is assessed.

The circumstances surrounding the hearing prompted the SJA’s complaint.

“Having only looked at the pictures online, it is difficult to confirm the authenticity of the picture in a low-res version,” said Stuart Robinson, the SJA’s deputy chairman and a leading sports photographer of long-standing.

“However, photographer Oliver McVeigh clearly seems totally happy that his picture is genuine, backed up by him making his material readily available for scrutiny, and his willingness to appear at the hearing.

“This appears to be yet another case of a sportsman, and or sporting body, blaming professional photographers for their misdemeanours.”

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