Johannesburg – Suspended Lions coach John Mitchell said on Monday he had been found not-guilty on various charges in his protracted legal battle with the Golden Lions Rugby Union (GLRU).
In a statement released by Mitchell's management company, The Fordham Company, it was also said that the GLRU had withdrawn six of the charges levelled against the New Zealand coach.
“Even though John has been cleared of these particular allegations, the GLRU, through its lawyers, is not prepared to release details to John or his lawyers,” The Fordham Company said.
“That's pretty amazing considering the damage that this action taken by the GLRU has done to John's reputation and brand.”
The GLRU, however, would not be drawn on Mitchell's claims, confirming only that the independent chairperson, Peter Bam, had concluded the internal disciplinary hearing.
“In terms of the independent chairperson's findings and recommendations the GLRU will engage John in discussions which by the nature of the employment relationship are private and confidential and cannot be disclosed,” the union said in the statement.
“Further information will only be made available once the parties have met and agreed on a joint media release.”
The Fordham Company further said the GLRU's lawyers had advised Mitchell's legal representatives that they were not prepared to release the findings and recommendations on the remaining nine charges unless the coach signed a confidentiality undertaking.
Mitchell was suspended at the end of June after Lions players lodged a “list of grievances” with the GLRU.
The Lions recruited the former All Blacks coach for their 2010
Currie Cup season and he was released from the final year of his contract with the Western Force to take up a three-year deal with the Johannesburg side.
Last year he guided the Lions to their first Currie Cup title since 1999.
With the uncertainty still hanging over his future with the Lions, Mitchell believed he still had a role to play at the union.
“I want my head coach position back at the Lions,” Mitchell said in the statement.
“There is some unfinished business to do with the Lions. Furthermore, I am determined that my future will be in South Africa”.
His statement came in the wake of news from English rugby club Sale Sharks that Mitchell was appointed as part of its rugby strategy board.
The Fordham Company, however, refuted the claims made on the Sale Sharks' website that Mitchell would take up a coaching role with the club.
“In making it clear that he wants to be restored as Golden Lions head coach, Mitchell confirmed today that he has no intention of seeking a coaching position with the UK club Sale Sharks, even though he had been approached by the club regarding the position,” the statement read.
Mitchell's management company said his lawyers, Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs, had threatened an urgent application to the Labour Court to secure the findings and recommendations. – Sapa