Rugby League

Case Detail

Case Number:


Josh McGuire #13, Warrington Wolves


Super League


Leigh Leopards v Warrington Wolves

Match Date:



Unacceptable Language



Charge Detail:

Detail – Verbal abuse based on race, colour, religion, gender, sexual preference, disability, national or ethnic origin or any other form of Unacceptable Behaviour of Language





Decision On Charge

Player plea:

Not Guilty

Summary of CM's submissions on the Charge / evidence:

Following a Match Review Panel meeting held on 5th June 2023, you are charged with misconduct for a breach of Law 15.1(f) during the above match.

The Panel reviewed an incident which occurred at 1 00 44 footage time of the above match. The incident was placed On Report by the match referee. In the Panel’s opinion you used Unacceptable Language when in dialogue with an opponent. The Panel believed that your actions were unnecessary, had the potential to cause injury and are against the true spirit of the game.

In accordance with the RFL’s On Field Sentencing Guidelines, the Panel consider that such offence is a Grade F offence – Verbal abuse based on race, colour, religion, gender, sexual preference, disability, national or ethnic origin or any other form of Unacceptable Behaviour or Language.

The normal suspension range for such offence is 6 matches plus.

• The Match Review Panel were concerned at the behaviour of Mr McGuire.

• The incident was placed On Report.

• The referee’s report states the following:

Josh Charnley was in possession of the ball and Josh McGuire was tackling him. Josh Charnley reacted to something that had been said after playing the ball. This incident happened on 58.14. At the next stoppage in play (1.00.30), Josh Charnley wanted to make a formal accusation. I placed the incident on report as I did not hear anything.

• Mr Charnley has reiterated his account of events in a follow up statement and confirmed he would be available to be questioned.

• The Match Review Panel see no reason to disbelieve the Mr Charnley.

• Mr McGuire mouth can be seen to be moving on the footage which would indicate he is in some dialogue with Mr Charnley.

• Mr Charnley makes an instant beeline for Mr McGuire after the tackle and is visibly emotional in his actions and gesticulates towards Mr McGuire. Mr Charnley can be seen when walking backwards to his position to still have eyes towards the direction of Mr McGuire.

• Mr Charnley at the next available stoppage intimates to the touch judge that he wants to make a complaint about Mr McGuire and the Touch Judge calls the referee over to Mr Charnley who informs the referee who then puts the incident On Report.

• This amounts to Unacceptable Language based on disability pursuant to the RFL’s definition as per the Operational Rules.

• Word used is derogatory and negative - term of abuse and disparagement towards disabled individuals and squarely falls under RFL’s definition of Unacceptable Language.

• The Panel believed that Mr McGuire’s actions were unnecessary, against the true spirit of the game and brings the game into disrepute.

• In accordance with the RFL’s On Field Sentencing Guidelines, the Panel consider that such offence is a breach of Law 15.1(f) – Verbal abuse based on race, colour, religion, gender, sexual preference, disability, national or ethnic origin or any other form of Unacceptable Behaviour or Language.

• Zero Tolerance approach of RFL towards such cases.

• Verbal abuse based on disability is unacceptable and has no place in the sport of Rugby League or society.

• Mr McGuire’s standards have fallen below what is expected of a player and amount to Misconduct.

Summary of Player's submissions on the Charge / evidence:

Player in attendance alongside Richard Cramer (Legal Rep) & Kylie Leuluai (Head of Rugby Operations). Player pleads Not Guilty.

RC talked the Tribunal through the footage of the incident. He also cross-examined Mr Charnley who joined the hearing to give evidence.

JM was cross-examined by both Mr Wild (RFL Compliance Manager) and RC. He informed the Tribunal that he had no knowledge about Mr Charnley or his family and that the words he was alleged to have used would not be something he would say. He did not know why he had been accused.

He added that it had been an aggressive game and as he completed the tackle on Mr Charnley, he did call him a “rat” due to a previous incident in a pre-season game between the two sides.

Mr Philbin and Mr Kasiano were also called as witnesses and were cross-examined by both sides and the Tribunal Chair.



Reasons for Decision:

The Tribunal reminded itself of the burden of proof. The RFL must prove the case and whilst the Tribunal acknowledged that the standard of proof should be somewhere between the balance of probabilities and beyond reasonable doubt, the Tribunal concluded that bearing in mind the seriousness of the allegation, the Tribunal would only find the case proved if they reached a high standard approximate to beyond reasonable doubt. Nothing less would do.

Accordingly, the Tribunal asked itself whether it could be sure (beyond reasonable doubt) that the offending words were said by Mr McGuire. Was it simply not said or could Mr Charnley have misheard?
In considering that straightforward factual issue the Tribunal reminded itself of two important principles.

Firstly, whilst one person’s word can be sufficient to prove a case to the high standard required, namely approximate to beyond reasonable doubt, nevertheless in such circumstances caution needs to be applied.

Secondly, the Tribunal reminded itself that it must consider not only the issue of whether Mr Charnley was deliberately telling lies but also the potential for Mr Charnley having made an honest mistake.

The Tribunal concluded that the RFL had proved to a high standard, approximate to beyond reasonable doubt that Mr McGuire had said the offending words. Accordingly, the Tribunal had no hesitation in concluding that Mr McGuire was guilty of breaching rule 15.1 (f).

In reaching that conclusion, the Tribunal had carefully considered the evidence of Mr Charnley. The Tribunal found him to be an impressive, credible and balanced witness. His account coincided with the footage which showed his reaction to the words said. He was categoric as to what he had heard.

The Tribunal was satisfied that there was no realistic possibility of fabrication by Mr Charnley. It was clear he took no pleasure in making the accusation but felt compelled to do so having regard to the seriousness of the offence. Mr Charnley was clear that he is indifferent about most insults and bad language used in a tempestuous game but the words being personal to a member of his family gave him no alternative but to report the matter and he did so as soon as reasonably possible. The Tribunal concluded that any suggestion of fabrication was fanciful as was mishearing what was said.

The Tribunal considered carefully the evidence of Mr McGuire whilst reminding itself that he did not have any burden of proof. In doing so the Tribunal concluded that Mr McGuire was not telling the truth. His account lacked credibility. He concentrated on making statements as to his character and why he would not use the words rather than focusing upon the events.

The Tribunal concluded that the accounts of Mr Philbin and Mr Kasiano added nothing to the issue. They were a considerable distance away (5 and 10 metres) when the offending words were said. Mr Kasiano belatedly said that he heard the word “rat” used by Mr McGuire. His evidence on this was inconsistent with earlier evidence he had given and in the view of the Tribunal was contrived.

The Tribunal took into account the submissions of Mr Cramer. Principally, the fact that others did not hear the words.

The Tribunal carefully considered all of the submissions of Mr Cramer and placed them in the context of all of the evidence heard during the hearing but ultimately the Tribunal found Mr Charnley to be an impressive and credible witnesses.

On the contrary, Mr McGuire was not. He was therefore guilty of the offence.

Decision On Sanction (where found to have committed Misconduct)

Summary of Player's submissions on the appropriate sanction:

RC pointed out that this was a very serious allegation, and the outcome would have an impact on the reputation of both players that were involved.

Having watched the footage several times there were a number of players from both sides in close proximity who did not react. This was a case of one player’s word against another. Mr Charnley was emphatic about what was said whilst Mr McGuire denied using the words. Could Mr Charnley have been mistaken?

He concluded that Rugby League is a tough game, and this was a local derby. The RFL had to meet the appropriate standard of guilt and he feels this had not been met. He therefore felt that the charge should not be made out and that Mr McGuire should be found Not Guilty.

Aggravating Factors:

22/05/23 – Dangerous Contact (Grade A)
09/02/23 – Unacceptable Language (Grade F – 7 matches & £1,000 fine)
21/08/23 – Dangerous Contact ($1,000 Fine – NRL)

Reasons for Decision:

Following submissions on behalf of the RFL and those on behalf of Mr Maguire the Tribunal considered the appropriate punishment.

The Tribunal reminded itself that Mr McGuire did not receive additional punishment because he had pleaded Not Guilty. However, Mr McGuire would not receive the credit that he would have received had he admitted the charge.

The Tribunal took into account Mr McGuire’s previous similar, recent offence and the fact that Mr McGuire had failed to respond to the education received The Tribunal adopted the reasoning of the RFL as to why the offence should be treated so seriously.

The Tribunal also took into account that it was clear both at the time of the offence and in the hearing that Mr Charnley had been profoundly and understandably upset by the remark.

In any workplace and on the rugby field, people should not have to be subjected to abuse particularly if it is discriminatory and directed towards members of their family.

The Tribunal reached the conclusion that the minimum punishment which could be justified was a 12-match suspension and £1,000 fine.


12 matches