A RUGBY club has come under fire for allowing a player on the pitch just days after being sentenced for assaulting his ex-partner.

Dion Aiye, 35, was branded an ‘entitled bully’ by a judge and slammed for his treatment of women as he was sentenced at Preston Crown Court on Thursday for assault by beating and harassment in Barrow.

The former captain of Whitehaven Rugby League had kicked his ex-girlfriend to the stomach and held her by the throat, leaving her in fear for her life.

Aiye was named in the Whitehaven squad for Sunday’s game against Swinton Lions and was brought onto the pitch as a substitute player.

The Rugby Football League (RFL) has said that Aiye is automatically guilty of a misconduct because he has a criminal conviction.

He was due to face an Operational Rules tribunal yesterday (March 19) to determine his sanction by the RFL.

Head coach Jonty Gorley said Aiye had been stripped of his captaincy after he had pleaded guilty last month ‘because it was the right thing to do’.

He said: “Dion’s captaincy was relinquished as soon as he was found guilty. Until the RFL do what they need to do, Dion is playing. He’s an integral part of my team.

“I don’t condone what he’s done but we’ll be dealing with the RFL and whatever they say, goes.”

Some Whitehaven fans have questioned the decision by the club which last year publicly backed a campaign to ‘call out’ violence against women and girls.

One supporter said: “I am disgusted that the club are standing by Dion Aiye after being found guilty of beating a woman.

“I for one, as a regular down at the recreation ground, will not be attending this season. I have daughters and granddaughters, one of whom went through domestic violence and still suffers from the mental scars to this day.

“To see this 'entitled bully' - the judge’s words not mine - is still part of a team I love and have enjoyed over many years is heartbreaking.”

Another supporter said: “It’s disgusting. He shouldn’t be in the public eye.”

Barry Morgan, CEO of Whitehaven Rugby League, said: “He’s a professional rugby player that has been dealt with by the courts, off the field. The RFL will deal with the on-field and then we’ll take it from there.”

When asked if he stood by the decision to let Aiye play on Sunday, Mr Morgan replied: “That wasn’t my decision to allow him to play on Sunday.

“He was chosen to play by his coach and his manager. They picked their team. We don’t interfere. That’s an agreement we have with the coach.”

Des Byrne, the manager of Whitehaven Rugby League, declined to comment.

A statement published on social media by Whitehaven Rugby League following Aiye’s conviction on Thursday said: “The club today acknowledge the sentencing of Dion Aiye following a recent court case.

“The club alongside Dion respect the decision of the judge and we will be making no further comment at this time.”