Following a review of the current system, the Disciplinary Review Group have had their recommendations approved by clubs and the Rugby Football League and a number of changes will be implemented to the disciplinary process ahead of the 2018 season.
The Disciplinary Review Group, which is comprised of Hull Kingston Rovers Chairman Neil Hudgell, Wakefield Trinity Chairman Michael Carter, Oldham Chairman Chris Hamilton, former Hull FC Football Manager Motu Tony alongside Rugby Football League representatives, was launched in November 2016 to assess the current system and identify its strengths and weaknesses.
The system was reviewed against best practise in other sport disciplinary proceedings and involved consultation with stakeholders, including a survey on topics such as Match Review Panel and Operational Rules Tribunal sent to club owners, chief executive officers, coaches, players, members of the media and supporters.
Changes approved for 2018 onwards are as follows:
- Early Guilty Plea replaced by Penalty Notice for cases graded A-C. Match Review Panel to decide grade and consult player’s disciplinary record to ascertain what sanction will be handed down:
- No record showing two or more offences in last 24 months, including one in last 12 months; and no similar offence (as defined in the Sentencing Guidelines) at Grade C or above in last 24 months = penalty at lower end of range (for example – one match for Grade B)
- Two or more offences in last 24 months, including at least one in last 12 months; or similar offence at Grade C or above in last 24 months = penalty at higher end of range (for example – two matches for Grade B)
- Cases graded D-F, or where Match Review Panel deem it appropriate not to issue a Penalty Notice, will automatically be referred directly to the independent Operational Rules Tribunal
- Players can challenge a Penalty Notice (A-C) – in which case the matter will be determined by the Operational Rules Tribunal. A refundable deposit of £500 for Super League players and £250 for all other players must be lodged when submitting a challenge. If challenge is successful, the deposit shall be returned. Challenges to a Penalty Notice can only be made on the following grounds:
- Guilt; or
- Improper Grading of the Offence by the Panel
Unsuccessful challenges will result in a one-match increase in sanction where grounds for challenge considered unreasonable. If player is found not guilty then no sanction will be handed out. A successful grading challenge will lead to a sanction that would have been imposed for the revised Grade.
Chair of the Disciplinary Review Group, Neil Hudgell, said: “We are very fortunate to be involved in a sport that regularly reviews its own processes seeking improvement and overall excellence.
“It’s well documented that the On Field Disciplinary process has been much maligned, often unfairly, down the years. Working in a collegiate manner with the Governing Body and other stakeholders in the game, we have hopefully delivered a set of proposals that lead to improvements in the quality of decision making, consistency and understanding of the basis for those outcomes.”