Major law changes not being made in reaction to legal threat, insists RFL chief Robert Hicks

Aaron Bower
Robert Hicks, Chris Kendall, High Tackle

RFL chief Robert Hicks in action on the pitch during his refereeing days (Main Image); Chris Kendall signals a high tackle (Circle) - Alamy

The sweeping law changes introduced by the Rugby Football League from next season aimed at reducing a player’s exposure to concussion have not been made in response to the threat of a legal challenge from a group of ex-players, insists the governing body’s director of operations and legal, Robert Hicks.

The RFL confirmed earlier today that they had approved 44 recommendations from the sport’s Brain Health and Clinical Advisory Group, which will impact the game at all levels including junior, community and professional.

Chief among those changes is a lowering of the legal tackle height to anywhere below the armpit, as opposed to the current regulations which state tackles below the neck are satisfactory.

That change will be introduced from next season in the community game and age-group rugby, before it is rolled out in 2025 in the professional game.

Major law changes not being made in reaction to legal threat, insists RFL chief Robert Hicks

With over 100 former players already issuing a claim against the sport for what they believe was a failure to properly protect them against the risks of serious brain injuries, the changes come at a time when concussion in sport has never been higher on the agenda.

But Hicks stressed that the proposals weren’t a reactionary one to the threat of legal action – instead, he says they were the actions of a ‘responsible governing body’.

“The RFL it’s aware of a claim, it’s been issued, but it hasn’t been served,” Hicks said on Thursday.

“No medical evidence has been served and therefore I just don’t think there’s any point trying to speculate what the legal or medical basis of that claim is at this stage.

“Hopefully if the claimant lawyers meet their core deadline, we’ll know more about that in the New Year. But deep down – and to be very clear here – all these changes are based on knowledge that we now have and responding to that data and that evidence, not in response to anything that may be happening in a legal claim.

“We’re just being a responsible governing body, reacting and adapting the sport to ensure its long-term health.”

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