Former Super League ref, ex-GB Lioness and France international join RFL disciplinary panels

James Gordon
Jerome Guisset joins RFL disciplinary team

The RFL disciplinary has bolstered its Operational Rules Tribunal and Match Review Panel teams with three additions.

Rebecca Stevens, now a barrister specialising in criminal defence, is a former Great Britain Lioness who was part of the touring teams of the late 90s and early 2000s.

She participated in the Life with the Lionesses heritage project, which raised awareness of the pioneers of the women’s game.

The project went on tour to 10 venues across the north of England. Stevens toured New Zealand in 1998 in her early 20s, and then went to Australia in 2002 despite suffering a torn cruciate ligament in her knee prior to the trip.

During the project, Stevens said: “Clients were quite impressed when I turned up with a black eye from training. I even got to a point where I thought about dropping out.  But I’m so glad I didn’t because I loved it!

“This whole experience has really allowed me to look back and appreciate what we achieved as a team. Hopefully this will lead to a more level playing field with the men, where women can have a career in ruby league.”

Stevens will sit on the ORT, joining a number of other legal experts who chair hearings with former players as side members.

Steve Presley, who refereed 96 Super League games after a 12-year playing career with Batley and Sheffield, has returned to the officials team having previously served as a match officials coach.

He will be joined on the Match Review Panel by former Catalans, Warrington and Wigan forward Jerome Guisset.

Guisset, 44, won 33 caps for France before his retirement in 2010, and also had a brief stint in the NRL with Canberra Raiders.

Presley and Guisset join Paul Dixon, Nathan McAvoy, Phil Veivers and chairman Paul Cullen on the MRP.

RFL disciplinary process changes

The disciplinary process dominated the headlines last season, and there have once again been tweaks to improve the system.

As previously announced, there have been amendments to the grading sanctions meaning that ban lengths are possible reduced.

The first working example of this was an incident involving Leeds forward James Donaldson in a pre-season game, where he was charged with a Grade B offence and received a one-match ban, whereas last season he would have got a two match ban for the incident.

There is a move to make better use of fines as a sanction, to try and find the right balance between having the right players on the field and making them accountably for their actions.

Players charged with a Grade D offence can now make an early guilty plea, whereas previously it would go straight to a tribunal.

There has been an increase in use of totting up to three previous offences, removal of the use of comparison clips and new guidance on the frivolous appeal ruling.

Eight full-time officials to start season

On the field, the match officials team has been hit with the retirement of James Child, while Robert Hicks will step back further this year.

Hicks stepped back from full-time officiating last year, though was still a regular on-field official in 2022, and is now director of operations and legal within the governing body.

With Steve Ganson currently stood down from his role as head of match officials pending an internal review, Dave Elliott is overseeing the referees team.

They will enter the season with eight full-time match officials, with three development match officials currently in full-time education training alongside them.

A select squad of 28 will sit underneath the full-time roster to be used across all professional competitions, creating a pathway for officials to step up to the full-time ranks.

There are more than 500 active match officials, with 366 newly qualified in the past 18 months.

REFLECT: The referee drain: does rugby league have a match officials crisis?