English Rugby
RFU reveals 'Image of the Game' findings
September 30, 2009

The RFU's 'Image of the Game' task force has unveiled 16 measures that it believes will help to rid the game of cheating.

The 13-man panel, including former England skipper Lawrence Dallaglio and RFU chief executive Francis Baron, was formed in the wake of the Harlequins 'Bloodgate' scandal and five drug-related suspensions at Bath.

The recommendations were based on a survey of professional players and 4,500 responses from grassroots rugby. The group also reviewed all of England's substitutions at Twickenham between 2002 and 2009 and at the 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups and met with banned former Harlequins director of rugby Dean Richards and his legal team.

Among the group's findings was "no substantiation whatsoever" for allegations that cheating is widespread in the game, and "no substance whatsoever" in speculation that the England team has fabricated blood injuries.

Included within the list are new ideas on the management of blood injuries and also on the prorities for medical staff, who it is suggested should be bound by their ethical responsibilities rather than club orders. Closer scrutiny of technical areas during games was also suggested.

The findings also cover uncontested scrums, as well as suggestions for concussed players to be temporarily replaced.

A trial involving rolling replacements and new rules allowing players to use local anaesthetics on certain injuries before games were also put forward as possibilites. In relation to drugs, the task force was clear that a program for preventing illegal drug use should be drawn up to include out-of-competition testing.

Another issue that was tackled is the consistency of sanctions against players across the world game so as to create a feeling of confidence in the disciplinary process.

"The aspiration of the task group was to eliminate cheating in all its forms across the game. This is vital if we are to rebuild the image of the game," said RFU president John Owen. "The extent of the information gathered and the positive response to the surveys shows how much people care about rugby and thanks should go to the Professional Rugby Players Association (PRA) and Premier Rugby for their support and contribution.

"As a task group we were determined to act decisively for the good of the sport and we believe that the recommendations, born out of findings and opinions from across all levels of the game, will enable us to do that.

"These are well thought out measures which as a union we will implement within set timelines. The support and involvement of the International Rugby Board and our fellow unions is also important if we are to ensure all the issues are addressed on a global basis."

The task group's recommendations will now be submitted to the RFU management board, who will be responsible for steering it through proper processes within the RFU and IRB.

RFU 'Image of the Game' task group recommendations:

  • Gamesmanship, foul play and cheating: Include a definition of cheating in the Rules of the RFU and create a specific regulation covering this issue with severe sanctions associated.

  • Fabricated blood injuries: IRB to establish guidelines on extent of blood required to necessitate substitution occurring and the role of the 4th official in confirming them. Continue and extend PRL voluntary code whereby opposition doctors have a right to examine alleged blood injuries. Increased recording and registering of blood substitutions at Union and IRB level.

  • Concussion: Recommend the IRB amend current regulations to allow temporary removal of players with possible concussion from the playing area and enable replacement for 15 minutes. This requires further analysis and consultation.

  • Feigned injuries: Monitor the impact of changes to Law 3 and uncontested scrums on the Guinness Premiership and European games. Recommend the IRB monitors the prevalence of uncontested scrums at the international level.

  • Medical intervention and local anaesthetics: RFU to recommend to IRB that they change regulation 10.2 to allow the use of local anaesthetics on match day for specific injuries and subject to informed consent. Until that time all English clubs and teams to adhere to the current regulation.

  • Protecting health care workers in professional rugby: Recommend to RFU and IRB that professional codes of ethics take precedence of any employer/employee contracts or other service agreement.

  • Rolling substitutions: Recommend that the RFU convene a specialist group to consider the issues involved and, if appropriate, trial rolling substitutions in a domestic competition. A report to be submitted to the IRB on the success or otherwise of such a trial.

  • Use of illicit drugs: Recommend that the RFU works urgently with the clubs and players associations to develop an illicit drugs policy to cover out of competition testing. Players contracts to include an obligation to comply with the requirements of such a policy. The IRB to be provided with a copy of the final policy to ensure alignment with global policies.

  • Use of performance enhancing drugs: Recommend the RFU maintains its leadership position in monitoring developments in this area and establishing policies and processes to address the issue.

  • Core Values: Support the roll out of the This is Rugby programme and suggest investment be increased in this important area. In particular focus on education programmes for all levels to ensure the Values are fully understood.

  • Codes of conduct: Ensure the newly agreed Code of Rugby has primacy over all Codes of Conduct in the RFU and in PRL and PRA. Recommend the RFU rationalises and updates its various Codes of Conduct to make them relevant and current. Create a clearing house for Codes of Conduct in the professional game to better align them around the Core Values.

  • Whistle blowing: Recommend that professional clubs review their current HR policies to enable staff and contractors to raise issues outside the line management function. RFU to ask Governance Standing Committee to consider as part of its Compliance Review.

  • Technical area issues: Recommend to IRB and other governing bodies that a consistent approach to the technical zone be applied across the whole professional game including at International level. Broaden the authority of the 4th Official to govern the technical zone and better define and limit which personnel be allowed in the zone.

  • Club and union governance: Recommends the RFU and PRL establish some guiding principles to ensure the appropriate safeguards are in place in clubs and the union. Various areas for consideration identified.

  • Improving the disciplinary process: Recommend to IRB, RFU, ERC and other competition bodies that all regulations for professional rugby at all levels include a clear timetable for dealing with allegations and for the publishing of judgments to happen within four days of a hearing.

  • Consistency of global sanctions: An observation made to the IRB that inconsistency in sanctions for similar cases has the potential to impact confidence in the game. IRB and RFU to take forward through their normal review processes.

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