An important message on Discipline – please circulate to all players and coaches
The annual discipline letter is part of the HRFU approach to ensuring that clubs, teams and individual players understand the key issues on the way that the discipline process will be managed.
1. Players’ status after sending off and before a disciplinary hearing
As you will no doubt be aware, IRB Regulation 17.1 sets out the Core Principles that the IRB have directed shall be applied as mandatory provisions by Unions at all levels of the Game. In particular, IRB Regulation 17.7.1 (k) provides that: ‘Players Ordered-Off or cited by a Citing Commissioner shall be provisionally suspended pending the hearing of the case’.
The RFU challenged the IRB on this and sought dispensation for clubs playing at levels 5 and below, this challenge was rejected. Therefore Core IRB Principle will apply to the RFU at all levels and RFU Regulation 19.5.3 has been amended from the 1st August 2013 to reflect this:
"A Player that is subject to an Ordering off or citing by a Citing Commissioner in a domestic or any other match is not entitled to play the Game (or any form thereof) or be involved in any off-field match day activities anywhere in the world until his/her case has been finally resolved. For the avoidance of doubt a player cited by an opposition team in matches at Level 3 and below may play the Game pending the resolution of his/her case."
Therefore, from 1st August 2013, any player sent off by the referee is NOT PERMITTED to play under any circumstances until their case has been considered by either RFU, HRFU or schools Disciplinary Process. Your club disciplinary committee should continue to consider any sending off ASAP and make its own judgement as to whether the offence is proven or not. However the player will remain suspended, whatever they decide, until after the case has been fully resolved by either the RFU, HRFU or schools disciplinary processes. Any player cited by an opposition team in matches at Level 3 and below may continue to play the Game pending the resolution of his/her case.
RFU Regulations 19.6.1 & 3 specify that the match referee and the club secretary for the player sent off must submit their referee report to/or inform the CB Disciplinary Secretary of the match within 48 hours so that they can take control of proceedings at their earliest convenience. Compliance with these regulations will be essential to avoid unnecessary periods of suspension and fines being imposed on clubs whose secretaries fail to do this.
In relation to prompt case progression, the regulations are to be amended to allow for a greater use of pleading guilty by post (or more usually by email) in appropriate cases. This will enable the disciplinary panel, were they see fit, to deal with the offence based on the papers and without the attendance of the player at the hearing or with the player being connected to the hearing by telephone conference call. The disciplinary panel will
continue to hold a hearing, with the player in attendance, where a player indicates a not guilty plea and they will also decide to see the player in serious cases or where the player is a persistent offender or they have adjourned paper consideration. It must also be emphasised that if a player is pleading guilty by post he is accepting the referee’s report in its entirety. Any statements by the player that throw up questions to the panel may cause a case to be adjourned from paper consideration. Again you are reminded that, whatever the approach or plea, the player will remain suspended until the case has been resolved either by the HRFU, RFU or school.
To facilitate the effective implementation of this change the HRFU Disciplinary Secretary will arrange a hearing as soon as possible, normally within 7 to 14 days of receiving all the information. We have also appointed a new panellist and hope to appoint two more in September. Players who appeal will remain suspended and appear in front an RFU Disciplinary Panel the following week (or as soon as is possible).
2. Disciplinary Panel Meetings, Fees and Fines
In future all disciplinary panel meetings will be held at Mercure Hatfield Oak Hotel, Roehyde Way, Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL10 9AF. The reasons for moving from Hertford RFC were so that the hearings were held in a more central part of the county for ease of access. That Hertford were unable to offer the conference call facilities that we see as essential in th future. That more clubs are video recording games and are presenting these recordings as evidence and Hertford could not supply the technology to view said recordings.
There will be a standard basic hearing fee levied of £40 for any case heard by a panel. This will include hearings that are conducted in the player’s absence. The fee will be waived if the player is found not guilty. There will be a standard £20 fine imposed against any club who fail to report a sending off within the statuary 48 hours. Any club that fails to meet a deadline as set out in any formal paperwork for a case will also be fined £20 for each instance.
3. Abuse of Match Officials
Last season we had 5 cases of match official abuse by players and a further 3 cases of match official abuse by non players making a total of 8 in the County which is the same as the 2012-13 figure of 8. Clubs are reminded that they have a direct role in controlling the behaviour of their coaches, spectators and players on and off the field. Failure to take responsibility for this or repeat offending could ultimately lead to a significant loss of league points for your club.
4. Bad Language
We received a number of complaints from spectators, several having been accompanied by young children, concerning the high volume of bad language coming from the players. We have also had complaints relating to abusive language from spectators being directed to the referee (treated as ‘match official abuse case’)
Bad language abusive or not does not help with the rugby image we want to display as part of the development of our game. I will discuss the issue with the referees and ask clubs to take appropriate steps to ensure that spectators and officials are not subjected to this sort of behaviour.
Adrian K Sparks (Disciplinary Secretary Hertfordshire R.F.U.)