Mike Brown’s Harlequins career has been brought to an abrupt end after he was handed a six-week ban following his red card for stamping last weekend, ensuring he will miss the rest of the season.
Brown, who will join Newcastle next season, was initially given a 12-week ban for a stamp to the head of Wasps’ Tommy Taylor – reduced to six on mitigation – but with only four matches left of the regular season the 35-year-old will miss Harlequins’ run-in, even if they reach the Premiership final.
It is a desperate end to Brown’s illustrious career with the club he first appeared for in 2005, going on to make 351 appearances. Harlequins are currently in fourth place, nine points clear of Northampton in fifth and well-placed to reach the Premiership play-offs. Brown, however, will play no part in their pursuit of the title he helped Quins win in 2012 – though he does have the right to appeal.
The disciplinary panel determined that Brown’s stamp warranted a top-end sanction, meaning a ban of 12 weeks but given it was the first red card of his career, and because he accepted the charge and showed “honesty and contrition” throughout the hearing he was awarded the maximum possible mitigation. His return-to-play date has not yet been finalised given it is unclear precisely when Harlequins’ season will end, so there is the chance Brown’s ban will extend into the start of his Newcastle career.
Meanwhile, the British & Irish Lions will be broadcast live on free-to-air TV for the first time in 28 years after it was announced Channel 4 will show the warm-up Test against Japan on 26 June. Channel 4 has also secured rights to show highlights of three Tests against South Africa.
The warm-up match – the Lions’ first on home soil since 2005 – is set to act as a key part of their preparations for the tour and while Sky Sports has secured rights for the eight matches in South Africa, Channel 4 will exclusively screen the Japan Test at Murrayfield next month. The fixture is on the same day as the Premiership final and while it is understood the Lions match will have an afternoon kick-off the two games will not clash.
The Channel 4 deal is a significant boost for the Lions, who according to the head coach Warren Gatland, are set to make a loss given the fact that crowds in South Africa will be significantly restricted – if they are allowed at all – with no hordes of travelling Lions supporters. In addition to the Japan match and Test highlights, All4 will also show highlights of the other tour matches in South Africa with the Lions set to confirm a revised schedule this week.
The Lions were last on terrestrial TV when ITV screened the 1993 tour of New Zealand but Channel 4’s move to bring them back to free-to-air TV is the latest in a drive by the broadcaster to improve its sports portfolio. Earlier this year Channel 4 broadcast live Test cricket, with coverage of England’s series in India, for the first time in 16 years.