Four clubs support Keighley’s call for RFL EGM

Four clubs, including Super League side Wakefield, have supported Keighley’s request to the RFL board to call an Extraordinary General Meeting of its member clubs.

The Cougars were relegated from the Championship on the final day of the season, after rivals Batley had a three point deduction reversed for fielding an ineligible dual-registration player.

Sheffield, who themselves lost out on prize money when Doncaster had their own point deduction overturned, Barrow and Championship One winners Hunslet are the other clubs supporting the call on Friday.

Keighley chairman Gary Fawcett said: “I made this move because litigation is always costly and you are always uncertain of success.  However, we commenced the litigation in order to ensure we received the evidence surrounding the ineligible player matter from the RFL.  

“The evidence confirmed our assumptions and an EGM is the best way forward.  The reason for this is that, I believe, the RFL organisation has created itself a conundrum over the issue.

“The act of the RFL appeals panel overturning the 3 point deduction for Batley (and Doncaster) fielding an ineligible player due to previous non-enforcement of the Operational Rule concerning Dual Registered players has set a precedent.  

“The precedent is that the rule was never enforced and the appeals panel found that it was fair to overturn an enforcing decision.  

“So, if Kingstone Press Championship teams next season, in the desperate bid for glory, play a dual registered ineligible player then, due to precedent, the rule cannot be enforced.

“Now, the best way to have resolved this problem, in my view, would have been to go to arbitration – to an independent respected body such as the Court of Arbitration for Sport.  The RFL lawyers refused point blank to go there.  

“In their shoes that is a sensible decision because going to arbitration would have set a precedent for other clubs to use it.  And, because I think that the arbitrator would have found in favour of the Cougars (and I think the RFL Board think so too or else they would, obviously, have agreed to arbitration), then other clubs would be expecting to use arbitration as a valid tool.  

“This would have caused the RFL a problem as it would have eroded the control and power of their internal disciplinary processes.

“With the RFL there is no right to arbitration by an external body.  Currently, the disciplinary process ends inside the RFL organisation.  Whatever is decided in an appeals panel, according to the RFL Board, cannot be undone.  

“When the decision is questioned the RFL Board immediately point to the independence of the panel. 

“However, arbitration is not currently allowed by the Operational Rules, so the only sensible recourse is to call an EGM of member clubs to sort the problem out.  The RFL Board has stated it can’t sort it out but the member clubs have the power to do this.”

Fawcett confirmed that his objectives for the EGM are to resolve any detriment to Keighley and Sheffield through either compensation or re-instatement, although he admits that it wouldn’t be practical for the Cougars to now be re-instated to Championship due to the delays.

They also aim to change the disciplinary processes so that this problem never happens again.

He added: “I believe that the right to arbitration should be as much a part of the Operational Rules as the definition of what makes a player ineligible.  It’s one thing I will not forget until the situation finally changes.  The FA allows arbitration so why not the RFL?  I think the change would be very good for the sport and avoid conundrums like this in the future.  After all, what’s the harm in having an independent arbitrator look at whether the decisions that are being made by the internal disciplinary processes are fair and correct?  It seems a very sensible grown up thing to do.”

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