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On-Field Disciplinary

Disciplinary Review

A number of changes were made to the disciplinary system ahead of the 2018 season. This followed a review undertaken by the Disciplinary Review Group which comprised:

  • Neil Hudgell – Hull KR Chairman
  • Michael Carter – Wakefield Chairman
  • Chris Hamilton – Oldham Chairman
  • Motu Tony – former Hull FC Football Manager
  • Rugby Football League Representatives

The Disciplinary Review Group 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 for 2018 onwards

The changes which have been approved for 2018 onwards are: 

  • The Early Guilty Plea has been replaced by the Penalty Notice for cases graded A-C.
  • In determining the appropriate sanctions to be issued in the Penalty Notice, the Match Review Panel will, after grading an incident, consult the player’s disciplinary record. If the player has:

 - 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.

Match Review Panel

The decision on whether a player should be charged with On-Field Misconduct is made by the Match Review Panel (the “Panel”).

The Panel is made up of the Compliance Manager (who provides the administrative support to the Panel) and up to 4 side members drawn from people with appropriate expertise (such as former players, referees and coaches). The current members of the Match Review Panel are Paul Cullen, Paul Dixon and Nathan McAvoy.

In relation to each round of Super League matches (or Challenge Cup matches involving Super League teams), each match is reviewed in full by a member of the Panel to identify incidents which should be considered by the Panel. These incidents are then considered by the Panel on the Monday morning following that Round and the Panel decide what action should be taken in relation to the relevant player(s).

In relation to each round of Championship, League 1, or Challenge Cup matches solely involving Championship or League 1 teams, or Academy matches, the Panel meet on the Thursday following the Round in question and consider any incidents that have been reported by Match Officials or otherwise brought to the attention of the Panel. There are only 2 side members in attendance for these Panel meetings. For the final week of the season and during the play-offs, all competitions are dealt with in accordance with the timetable usually in operation within Super League.

If a Club wishes to bring any incidents of alleged misconduct to the attention of the Panel they must notify the Compliance Manager by: (a) in the case of Super League Players, no later than 10.00am on the first working day after the incident; (b) in the case of Championship Players, no later than 12.00 noon on the Wednesday following the day on which the incident took place.

In relation to each incident the Match Review Panel consider, the Panel has the following options:

  • Charge the Player with On Field Misconduct (an “Offence”). In which case for cases graded A-C, a Penalty Notice will be issued, or for cases graded D-F (or in exceptional A-C grade cases) the matter will be referred to the Operational Rules Tribunal for determination.

The grades and normal suspension range for each grade are listed below:

Grade Normal Suspension Range
A NFA - 1 match
B 1-2 matches
C 2-3 matches
D 3-5 matches
E 4-8 matches
F 8+ or suspension period
  • Caution the Player – in which case, subject to the Player’s right of appeal to an Operational Rules Tribunal, the Caution will be placed on the Player’s record
  • Decide there is no case to answer (in which case the Panel may still send the Player a warning/advice letter)
  • Where a Player has been dismissed from the field of play, deem the Referee’s decision to send the player from the field of play sufficient punishment and place this finding on the Player’s record. Where an offence has been deemed Sending Off Sufficient, the Player shall have the right of appeal, such appeal to be submitted within 7 days.
  • Refer the matter to the Compliance Manager for further investigation.

Operational Rules Tribunal

This is an independent Tribunal made up of a legally qualified Chair (a serving or retired Judge) and the side members are ex-professional players.

The Tribunal will consider all evidence presented to them by the Player and the Compliance Manager (on behalf of the Match Review Panel.) Each party can present one clip of a similar charged incident from the previous two years to support their case.

The Tribunal then determine if the Player is guilty of an offence, the grade of that offence and what the appropriate sanction should be. Sanctioning decisions are made pursuant to the On Field Sentencing Guidelines.

The Tribunal also has the right to fine a player. Fines are not and will not be issued instead of suspensions and will not be used in an exemplary manner.  The fine structure is as set out below. The money generated from fines goes towards Rugby League good causes such as player welfare and the RFL Benevolent Fund.

Level Fine
Scholarship £0
Reserve - Championship £25
Super League Reserve £50
Super League Academy £50
League 1 £75
Championship £250
Super League £500

There is a right of appeal against the findings of the On-Field Operational Rules Tribunal.

For a detailed description of how the RFL's Disciplinary process works, please see the document to download the On Field Compliance & Sentencing Guidelines