The RFU has today made 16 recommendations to eliminate cheating from the sport. The Image of the Game Task Group – that includes Warriors Chairman Cecil Duckworth OBE – has put forward measures it believes will help restore the reputation of the game.
After four weeks of investigation, including a survey of professional players and 4,500 responses from grassroots rugby, RFU President and Task Group Chairman John Owen said: “The aspiration of the Task Group was to eliminate cheating in all its forms across the game. This is vital if we are to rebuild the image of the game.
“The extent of the information gathered and the positive response to the surveys shows how much people care about rugby and thanks should go to the Professional Rugby Players Association and Premier Rugby Ltd for their support and contribution.
“As a task group we were determined to act decisively for the good of the sport and we believe that the recommendations, born out of findings and opinions from across all levels of the game, will enable us to do that.
“These are well thought out measures which as a union we will implement within set timelines. The support and involvement of the International Rugby Board and our fellow unions is also important if we are to ensure all the issues are addressed on a global basis.”
The Task Group focused on:
* The fabrication of blood injuries
* Feigning injury to enable substitutions to be made
* Any other “medical interventions” or areas of “medical practice” where existing regulations might be being breached such as the use of local anaesthetics on match days
* Events of ‘cheating’ and ‘gamesmanship’
* Unfair interference with the opposition team’s operations or preparation for match day
* The use of illicit/recreational drugs
* The use of performance enhancing drugs
The Task Group drew evidence from:
* A survey of professional players, resulting in 129 responses, including 102 who have played representative international rugby
* A survey of coaches, medics, physiotherapists and administrators in professional clubs and those attached to the England teams
* A survey of the grassroots game, resulting in 4,524 responses from players, coaches, administrators and match officials
* A full review of all England substitutions at its matches at Twickenham over the period 2002 to 2009 and the Rugby World Cup matches of 2003 and 2007
* A meeting between the RFU President, the RFU Disciplinary Officer, Dean Richards and his legal advisers
The Task Group found:
* There is no subtantiation whatsoever for allegations that cheating is widespread and systemic in the game either at international or domestic level
* Inappropriate behaviour remains extremely rare but still needs to be addressed. The evidence of the Harlequins situation demonstrates that single examples can still impact the sport adversely
* There are issues relating to blood substitutions, optimising the assessment of the potentially concussed player, feigning of injuries and local anaesthetics that need addressing. These may arise for a number of reasons, including gaining advantage, player welfare and concussion
* There is no substance whatsoever in the speculation that the England team has fabricated blood injuries.
* The impacts of wider societal trends cannot be ignored and need to be planned for
* In a global game there is a need for a consistent approach in all markets by relevant authorities
The Task Group recommends:
1. Gamesmanship, foul play and cheating
Include a definition of cheating in the Rules of the RFU and create a specific regulation covering this issue with severe sanctions associated
2. Fabricated blood injuries
IRB to establish guidelines on extent of blood required to necessitate substitution occurring and the role of the 4th official in confirming them. Continue and extend PRL voluntary code whereby opposition doctors have a right to examine alleged blood injuries. Increased recording and registering of blood substitutions at Union and IRB level
Recommend the IRB amend current regulations to allow temporary removal of players with possible concussion from the playing area and enable replacement for 15 minutes. This requires further analysis and consultation
4. Feigned injuries
Monitor the impact of changes to Law 3 and uncontested scrums on the Guinness Premiership and European games. Recommend the IRB monitors the prevalence of uncontested scrums at the international level
5. Medical intervention and local anaesthetics
RFU to recommend to IRB that they change regulation 10.2 to allow the use of local anaesthetics on match day for specific injuries and subject to informed consent. Until that time all English clubs and teams to adhere to the current regulation.
6. Protecting health care workers in professional rugby
Recommend to RFU and IRB that professional codes of ethics take precedence of any employer/employee contracts or other service agreement.
7. Rolling substitutions
Recommend that the RFU convene a specialist group to consider the issues involved and, if appropriate, trial rolling substitutions in a domestic competition. A report to be submitted to the IRB on the success or otherwise of such a trial.
8. Use of illicit drugs
Recommend that the RFU works urgently with the clubs and players associations to develop an illicit drugs policy to cover out of competition testing. Players contracts to include an obligation to comply with the requirements of such a policy. The IRB to be provided with a copy of the final policy to ensure alignment with global policies.
9. Use of performance enhancing drugs
Recommend the RFU maintains its leadership position in monitoring developments in this area and establishing policies and processes to address the issue.
10. Core Values
Support the roll out of the This is Rugby programme and suggest investment be increased in this important area. In particular focus on education programmes for all levels to ensure the Values are fully understood.
11. Codes of conduct
Ensure the newly agreed Code of Rugby has primacy over all Codes of Conduct in the RFU and in PRL and PRA. Recommend the RFU rationalises and updates its various Codes of Conduct to make them relevant and current. Create a clearing house for Codes of Conduct in the professional game to better align them around the Core Values.
12. Whistle blowing
Recommend that professional clubs review their current HR policies to enable staff and contractors to raise issues outside the line management function. RFU to ask Governance Standing Committee to consider as part of its Compliance Review.
13. Technical area issues
Recommend to IRB and other governing bodies that a consistent approach to the technical zone be applied across the whole professional game including at International level. Broaden the authority of the 4th Official to govern the technical zone and better define and limit which personnel be allowed in the zone.
14. Club and union governance
Recommends the RFU and PRL establish some guiding principles to ensure the appropriate safeguards are in place in clubs and the union. Various areas for consideration identified.
15. Improving the disciplinary process
Recommend to IRB, RFU, ERC and other competition bodies that all regulations for professional rugby at all levels include a clear timetable for dealing with allegations and for the publishing of judgments to happen within four days of a hearing.
16. Consistency of global sanctions
An observation made to the IRB that inconsistency in sanctions for similar cases has the potential to impact confidence in the game. IRB and RFU to take forward through their normal review processes.
The role of the Task Group is to make recommendations to the RFU Management Board and Council. It has no decision making powers itself. The Report will be submitted initially to the RFU Management Board who will be responsible for steering it through the proper processes within the RFU and the IRB.
Prior to the Management Board considering the recommendations a period of consultation will take place with Premier Rugby, the PRA, the Championship and the Professional Game Board (PGB).