Tribunal upholds Bulls in Tupou case

A Rugby Football League Tribunal has upheld Bradford Bulls’ decision to terminate the contract of former New Zealand international winger Tame Tupou.

The case revolved around the interpretation of clause 21.3 of the standard RFL professional players contract, which states that if a player is unable to play Rugby League Football and/or train for 26 weeks in any 12 month rolling period the club may terminate his contract.

In a reserved Determination the Tribunal upheld the Bulls’ assertion that the term ‘train’ in clause 21.3 means ‘train to play rugby league football’ or, in the words of the Tribunal’s Determination, “participation in scheduled team training activities, including aspects of conditioning, fieldwork and any other activities laid out in the club’s official training schedule”.

It did not mean merely undergoing training routines such as gym work as part of a process of rehabilitation from injury, as Mr Tupou’s legal team had sought to argue. The Tribunal also dismissed their assertion that the clause was relevant only to career-ending injuries.

The Tribunal held that Bradford Bulls ought to have invoked the RFL’s disciplinary procedure and awarded Mr Tupou the equivalent of two weeks’ salary by way of compensation, as two weeks would have been the time this process would have taken to complete.

In so doing the Tribunal noted that disciplinary procedures “do not sit easily with a dismissal on capability grounds” which was indeed why the Bulls had not taken the discipline route – erroneously as it transpired – in recognition that it was clearly not Mr Tupou’s fault that he had been injured.

Bradford Bulls will now work with Mr Tupou’s rugby agent to help the player continue his career at another club.

The Tribunal made no order as to costs.

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