The RFL have increased the range of experience available to the Operational Rules Tribunal and the Match Review Panel in 2023.
Rebecca Stevens, a barrister specialising in criminal defence who is a former Great Britain Lioness, will be available to sit on the ORT, joining a number of other legal experts who chair hearings with former players as side members – usually on Tuesday evenings.
Meanwhile the Match Review Panel, which will again meet every Monday morning to consider all fixtures from the Betfred Super League and on Thursdays to review incidents from Betfred Championship, League One and Women’s Super League matches, will now be drawn from a squad of six.
The newcomers to the group are Jerome Guisset, the former France forward, and Steve Presley, the former referee and referees coach – joining Paul Dixon, Nathan McAvoy, Phil Veivers and the chairman, Paul Cullen.
As previously announced, a number of changes to the Off-Field Misconduct Rules for 2023 were approved by December’s meeting of the Rugby League Council, following a review carried out in consultation with representatives from clubs from all three divisions – full details here Rugby League Council and RFL Board set to consider disciplinary changes (rugby-league.com)
Clubs have also been informed of a decision by the RFL’s Clinical Advisory Group to increase the minimum number of days before which a player can return after failing a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) during training or more often matches – the Gradual Return To Play (GRTP) – to 12 days.
The GRTP was increased from seven days to 11 before the start of the 2022 season – and World Rugby subsequently increased the GRTP in rugby union to 12 days.
The RFL’s Laws Committee have approved three changes to the laws for 2023 – two of them relating to injuries on the field of play.
Clubs will now be permitted to name a fifth interchange player (an 18th player), to be used only in the event of three players failing an HIA in the same match – the same system that applied in the Rugby League World Cup last autumn.
The protocols around the Green Card, which was introduced in 2022, have been reinforced – so that if the referee calls time off for a player to receive medical attention, the player will have to leave the field for two minutes of elapsed playing time before being allowed to rejoin the match.
This is with a view to reducing timewasting and gamesmanship, in addition to respecting the primary importance of player safety.
The third law change concerns penalties awarded at scrums, which will no longer be differential penalties, as previously – meaning that the non-offending team will be able to kick for goal.
The RFL have also confirmed an intention to increase the number of Match Officials in the Full-Time Squad – currently eight, following the off-season retirement of James Child. They will be supported by three Development Match Officials, and a “Select” squad of 28 who will be used across all professional competitions – with opportunities to progress through the pathway.
Appointments have been made for this weekend’s opening round of fixtures in the Betfred Championship, with Cameron Worsley taking charge of Saturday’s stand-alone match between Barrow Raiders and Toulouse Olympique – which will be shown live on Our League – and Tom Grant appointed for the first Monday Night fixture of the season between Keighley Cougars and Featherstone Rovers, which will be shown live on Viaplay Sports.
In addition Liam Moore, who is the RFL’s Match Officials Recruitment and Development Officer as well as a member of the Full-Time Squad, has confirmed that all match referees in the First Round of the Betfred Challenge Cup on the weekend of February 11-12 will be wearing “Ref-Cams”, which were trialled successfully in the National Conference League last season and will now be rolled out across Community Rugby League as part of the Enjoy the Game campaign aimed at improving player and spectator behaviour.