A former rugby league star has had a life ban lifted following an appeal hearing.
The punishment was handed down four years ago when Allen Langham struck out at an official while playing for Doncaster Toll Bar ARLFC.
Last Tuesday’s ruling came after the Rugby Football League heard of the dramatic effects on Langham’s character of his new-found Christian faith, even to the extent of mentoring players at his old club, Doncaster RLFC, where he has been given the role of player welfare and support – effectively assistant chaplain.
After a partial lifting of his ban last year, which still restricted him from actually playing the game, he re-applied to the RFL’s appeals panel at Brighouse in a bid to restore his reputation and enable him to return to the pitch.
In allowing the appeal, the RFL said: “The panel were impressed by the considerable efforts Mr Langham has made in rehabilitating his life. He has served a four-year period not playing the game and the panel were satisfied that the sine die (playing sanction) sentence could now be rescinded.”
The 37-year-old prop will now be able to resume his career as a player while continuing to mentor players under the guidance of Dons chaplain Dave Miller.
Langham had shown great promise when signing for Sheffield Eagles as a teenager, and later playing for the Dons, but his career was subsequently blighted by drink and drugs as he served seven prison stretches for a string of offences often involving violence.
Dons chief executive Carl Hall said: “Over the last few years I have seen an immense change in Allen, to the point that we slowly introduced him back into our group at the club.
“We are all so proud of the way he has turned his life around and of all the good he wants to do for the community, to the extent that we have appointed him assistant chaplain in an official capacity – an opportunity he has been taking with both hands.
“I always knew he had a big, giving heart. He just needed some guidance and, in the ‘man above’, he has found it.”
Langham said: “I am absolutely thrilled. I was so looking forward to the chance of officially getting back on the pitch. All I ever wanted to be was a professional rugby player, but I am very grateful to the Appeals Panel for allowing me to be involved again in a sport I love.
“The support and prayers of fellow Christians and my rugby league friends have meant so much to me. I now know that, whatever happens, I have a bright future ahead with God on my side.”
Now a qualified personal trainer, Langham added: “Of course I deeply regret the problems of the past which blighted my career and every aspect of my life. The Dons, in particular, kept faith with me through the difficult times and have encouraged me as my life has turned around.
“It is so good to be serving the club now in an official capacity, giving something back after all the years they supported me.”