Hudgell slams RFL disciplinary process

Hull Kingston Rovers chairman Neil Hudgell has issued a strongly worded statement, strongly criticising the current state of the disciplinary process in Super League.

His statement comes on the heels of several controversial judgements handed down by the disciplinary panel in recent days.

Hudgell himself lost an appeal against a recent fine which had been imposed on him. He is certainly not remorseful about his behaviour, however.

“I lost my appeal on Monday, unsurprisingly, against a fine for speaking out against both the match review panel and disciplinary panel. I dislike the ‘catch all’ operational rule D1.8 (c) which is basically an affront to being able to speak your mind,” said Hudgell, in a strongly worded statment on Hull KR‘s official website.

“Because I said the system was bust and not fit for purpose, I was deemed guilty of “conduct prejudicial to the game”.
“This is despite the RFL producing zero evidence of prejudice be it concern from sponsors, commercial partners, other clubs or fans. The only complaints were from within and from sitting members. Is it right for the RFL to use that provision to protect the narrow self-interests of its own rather than in the genuine wider interests of the game? I think not.

“I won’t repeat what I said that brought me before the panel, but I won’t withdraw my comments either. As a stakeholder in the game who has invested significant time and resource, I am entitled to hold a view and express it accordingly.”

Hudgell also believes that match officials do not face enough scrutiny about their decisions, and certainly not when compared to the glaring spotlight shone on players and coachs.

“The current fiasco with the obstruction rule in part has its origins in the above approach,” he continued.

“Rules overly protect match officials from scrutiny and accountability. Strictly speaking, the operational rules prevent any public comment (even positive!) on the standard of refereeing. Why is that right? Coaches and players are forced to face the music even after a car crash of a performance.

“Teams can miss out on a play-off spot, or cup progression, on the back of bad decisions. Why aren’t officials (and their boss) more publicly accountable for their performance?

“In the absence of that scrutiny, performances won’t consistently improve. Coaches therefore mistrust referees in exercising judgment, hence rules which take out that element of discretion. It ruins the spectacle and forces people away from the game.”

Hull KR had an appeal against a ban for prop Michael Weyman upheld this week, after the player was found not to have definitely directed abusive remarks to a match official.

Hudgell feels that another high-profile case of abusive language, that of Zak Hardaker, only serves to further illustrate the inconsistencies in the sport’s disciplinary processes.

“I think the Zak Hardaker case provides an illustration of inconsistency,” he explained.

“Why didn’t the match review panel refer him the same week as Mick Weyman with both being cases of dissent? The factual matrix was pretty simple even if the gravity of charge was more significant.

“The delay enabled him to play in a close cup tie, in which he scored a try. Had he been banned under normal processes he wouldn’t have played. Might that have affected the outcome? Who knows?”

Hudgell, a lawyer by trade, also outlines a detailed plan on how to improve the process, which can be seen on Hull KR‘s official website.

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