Concussion awareness, crowd trouble, and European deal signed
Published 26 April 2014 By: Henry Elkington
European deal finally signed
The future of European club rugby has been secured for at least another 8 years after the signing of the new Champions Cup agreement (https://www.rfu.com/news/2014/march/news-articles/260314_europe_statement). The agreement was finally signed on Thursday 10 April at Heathrow.
There will be no title sponsor of either the Champions Cup (equivalent of the Heineken Cup) or the Challenge Cup (equivalent of the Amlin Cup).
The new organisation which will run the tournament is the European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) which replaces European Rugby Club Ltd which has held the reins since 1995. The EPCR will be based in Switzerland. Like the ERC, it will have a board of directors, but the real power will lie in an executive committee which will be made up of a director from each of the three leagues that supplies teams to the Champions Cup along with an independent chairman and EPCR's director-general. The executive committee will be responsible for all the commercial deals.
The executive committee, whose three voting members will be drawn from the three leagues involved: the Aviva Premiership, France's Top 14 and the RaboDirect Pro12, will therefore address all of the commercial issues. Thus leaving the unions to deal with the administrative formalities such as refereeing, anti-doping and discipline. This, no doubt, will appease the English and French clubs along with the Welsh regions who have argued that a club tournament should be ran by the clubs.
BT Sport and Sky have reached an agreement over television rights that will see them share the 70 matches equally with both screening the final. This was by no means an easy task given the broadcasting rivalry between the two.
Mark McCafferty, Chief Executive of Premiership Rugby, believes that turnover could be increased by up to 70% next season in the wake of the European Rugby Champions Cup and shared television rights agreement. Ian Ritchie, the Chief Executive of the RFU stated that "This is an excellent outcome for all concerned, most importantly the players and supporters who have made European rugby what it is today," and that "This long-term agreement [which will roll on after eight years unless one of the nine stakeholders serves notice] will provide the platform for rugby union to expand across Europe."
Premiership player cautioned after attempting to film women undressing at leisure centre
A Gloucester Rugby Club player has been officially cautioned for trying to film a woman changing (voyeurism) in a leisure centre. The player, Koree Britton, used his camera phone to take photo or video under a cubicle at a leisure facility in Cheltenham on 31 March. The woman involved in the incident is understood to have been “very upset” by the incident however charges have not been pressed against the 22 year old player. A spokesman for Gloucester Rugby Club has said "The club has started an internal investigation into the matter and will not be making any further comment."
RFU regulation 21.3.2(b) states that “A Temporary Suspension Order may be imposed when the Legal Officer receives: notification that an individual is the subject of an investigation by the Police, Social Services or any other authority relating to an Offence”. The Legal Officer can then, once an investigation is complete, impose a suitable suspension period, if necessary, based upon all of the circumstances of the case.
This no doubt raises bad publicity for the club who will be angered and embarrassed about the player’s conduct in bringing their name into disrepute. Gloucester Rugby Club may well be looking at taking disciplinary action against the player. In an extreme case scenario, there may well be a termination clause in the player’s contract which enables the club to sack the player for disciplinary issues. An example for which is Mike Phillips who was sacked by French side Bayonne for turning up to training drunk (https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/rugby-union/24692325).
Bottle throwing at West Country Derby
Gloucester finished the derby (12/04/2014) against Bath with only 11 men on the field following 2 red cards and 2 yellow cards in the latter stages of the match; and are facing an RFU investigation into these incidents. Added to this is an incident whereby a spectator threw a plastic bottle towards officials as they were going back down the tunnel following the game. Gloucester, who were quick to say that they had nothing to do with the individual, stated that "Gloucester Rugby would like to stress that the individual involved is neither a member or regular supporter of the club." The individual is thought to have been on a rugby tour accompanied by teachers and Gloucester have said that "The individual concerned has admitted to the act, and is extremely remorseful about his actions”. Gloucester Rugby are liaising with the club and individual with regards to appropriate action being taken.
Would be RFU regulation 13.10.11.a of the RFU Regulations- “Ground and match management – failure to comply with requirements” (Reg 13, Appendix 1, Sanction Guidelines https://www.rfu.com/~/media/files/thegame/regulations/rfu_regulation_13_appendix_1_2013). A punishment could be to “impose such penalty as deemed appropriate by Organising Committee, including deduction of 5 or more League points”. RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said of the incident, "I don't think anybody could look at it and say it was the greatest advert for the game, both in terms of the things that happened off and on the pitch."
Concussion awareness and penalties
The International Rugby Board (IRB) has stepped up its commitment to the promotion of concussion awareness with the delivery of a new resource aimed at educating the public. The new resource, “Concussion: Recognise and Remove” has been overseen by a group of independent concussion experts who are working with the IRB to continue to advance concussion education, prevention, management and research. IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "Concussion education sits at the top of the IRB’s player welfare strategies aimed at informing, supporting and protecting players at all levels of the Game." He continued by saying that "This enhanced resource is designed to assist our Unions with changing culture, educating players, coaches and family members at all levels about concussion symptoms and the need to treat any head injury with caution and care."
In Australia the National Rugby League (NRL) have fined Canterbury Bulldogs $20,000 as part of their new tougher stance against concussion. The fine which Canterbury are considering appealing against is for not removing removing English prop James Graham from the field immediately after a heavy tackle in their round four win over Melbourne and later allowing him to return. The new rules that have been adopted by the NRL are to immediately remove a player from the field of play for a concussion assessment by a medical practitioner if it is suspected. The player must not be allowed back on the field if concussion is evident. The Bulldogs have been pulled up on these issues in being slow to remove the player from the game and then allowing him to return (https://www.nrl.com/About/ReferenceCentre/ManagementofConcussioninRugbyLeague/tabid/10798/Default.aspx).
Could this approach be adopted in European rugby in the future? Is this the future for concussion sanctions against clubs?
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- Tags: Concussion | European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) | European Rugby Cup | Premiership Rugby | Rugby | Rugby Football Union (RFU) | United Kingdom (UK)
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Henry is an aspiring sports lawyer, currently completing his GDL in Cardiff. Henry graduated from the Cardiff University with a B.A. in History and Philosophy. He has a passion for all sports especially rugby and tennis having played for the first team at Cardiff University.