Disclaimer: Below is an overview of the Disciplinary Process and does not supersede that outlined by the Bylaws of USA Rugby and World Rugby. The following was written to summarize and simplify World Rugby Regulations 17, 18, and 20, as well as Midwest Rugby Union proceedings and likely relevant timelines. Procedures and proceedings under Regulation 17 and/or Regulation 18 or any decision of a Disciplinary Committee, Judicial Officer, Appeal Committee, or Appeal Officer shall not be quashed or held invalid by reason only of any defect, irregularity, omission, or other technicality unless such defect, irregularity, omission, or other technicality raises a material doubt as to the reliability of the findings or decisions of a of a Disciplinary Committee, Judicial Officer, Appeal Committee, or Appeal Officer or results in a miscarriage of justice (17.28.2). In other words, if a referee is late to file a report or the information is not processed within certain timelines, this is not grounds for a dismissal or appeal.
Overview of Discipline
In most cases, the Disciplinary Process begins when a player is shown a red card, or their second yellow card, during a match resulting from foul play. These disciplinary issues fall under World Rugby Regulation 17. Following the match, the match official/ referee will submit a Discipline Report via the Midwest Rugby Union’s website within 48 hours of the conclusion of the match; in most cases, this is Monday. This report is sent to the Vice President of Discipline and Compliance who usually assigns the report to the Local Area Union for which the offending player is a member.
While Regulation 17 focus on foul play that occurs on the field of play, World Rugby Regulation 18 expands to include any conduct, behavior, statements and/or practices on or off the playing enclosure during or in connection with a match or otherwise, that is unsporting and/or cheating and/or insulting and/or unruly and/or ill-disciplined. Misconduct shall exclude foul play during a match which has already been the subject of consideration under Regulation 17. Regulation 18 offenses may be reported by not only the match official/referee, but also other coaches, players, or citing commissioners.
After a report has been submitted, whether it is foul play or misconduct, the accused will receive notification, either via telephone or email, that a Discipline Report has been filed against them. In some cases, the Judicial Officer or Disciplinary Committee member may have to reach out to the club in order to get valid contact information for the accused. Once contacted, the accused will be provided two options in regards to a virtual hearing held online via Zoom, Google Meets or some other similar technology:
- Option #1 – The accused can request to have a one-person hearing directly with the Judicial Officer (JO) or a member of the Local Disciplinary Committee (DC) who does not have a conflict of interest in the process. This type of hearing is usually quicker and easier as it only includes a Judicial Officer or Disciplinary Committee member, the accused, and any additional interested parties such as the club coach, captain or president.
- Option #2 – The accused can request a full three-person hearing with members of the Disciplinary Committee. No members of the Disciplinary Committee may have a conflict of interest in the process.
If a club does not respond to the request for contact information or the accused doesn’t respond and schedules a hearing within the stated time frame, the Judicial Officer or Disciplinary Committee member will rule on the matter usually within one (1) day of the proposed hearing date. All communications from a Judicial Officer or Disciplinary Committee (member) will be sent to the club contacts listed Midwest Member Club Contact Listing on the Midwest website.
If a hearing is required, the parties involved will receive at least thirty-six (36) hours notice of the time of the hearing. Hearings are typically held weekly on Wednesday evenings at 7:30pm CT but may be scheduled for a different time depending on available disciplinary resources. In most cases, hearings will be held during the week following the report due date. In other words, if an infraction occurs on a given Saturday, the report is submitted on the immediate following Monday (48 hours later), then the hearing will likely be held on the Wednesday of the next week, approximately eleven (11) days after the match.
The accused will be provided with a copy of the (referee’s) report and any other evidence that is being reviewed such as video or witness statements and have at least twenty-four (24) hours to review this evidence. It is highly recommended that players and/or clubs should submit their own report and provide any evidence they wish to submit (including video of the incident) prior to the hearing if possible so that mitigating factors can be considered. Failure of the club/ player to submit their report or provide evidence which provides mitigating factors is not grounds for an appeal. Additionally, they should familiarize themselves with recommended sanctions which are applied to all levels of play by World Rugby. Regulation 17 includes information on potential mitigating and aggravating factors that can be considered by the Judicial Officer or Disciplinary Committee member(s). Unless determined otherwise, the entry point for consideration of most red cards issued is the mid-range offense.
Hearings related to foul play should have the accused player present and are composed of two steps. The first step involves the Judicial Officer or Disciplinary Committee member(s) determining whether the infraction truly was a red card offense. If it is deemed that the infraction has met the “red card test”, the second step is to determine the appropriate sanction. The Officer or Committee members will read the charges against the accused, present evidence that support the charges, and ask questions of the parties involved. No cross-examination is permitted. If they have not done so already, the accused is entitled to review the evidence against them and present such evidence intended to establish innocence, mitigation, or demonstrate their good character so long as the evidence is relevant. Admission is considered a mitigation. The accused may be represented by counsel or other representative and the parties will be given the opportunity to present concluding remarks. Players will likely be asked to discuss their disciplinary history (if any) and clubs should be able to provide their upcoming match schedule.
Immediately after the conclusion of the hearing, the Judicial Officer or Disciplinary Committee will deliberate and make a finding of innocence or guilt with respect to each charge and will issue an appropriate sanction for any finding of guilt. The ruling by the Judicial Officer or Disciplinary Committee (member) will be sent in writing and include whether the foul play was found/ admitted, will state the seriousness of the offense, the entry point of the sanction, any aggravating factors, any mitigating factors, and any appeal rights.
Players are considered ineligible for play while awaiting sanctioning, a hearing, or an appeal. Only once a ruling has been provided and the player has served their sanction is a player eligible to play.
In any cases related to citations where no red or yellow cards were shown, a direct ruling by a Disciplinary Committee member or Judicial Officer prior to a hearing is not a reason for dismissal but is a reason for appeal to have a Disciplinary Committee hearing and ruling. If an appeal is requested, it must be done so in writing to the Chairperson of the Disciplinary Committee and must state the basis for the appeal. Grounds for an appeal include cases of mistaken identity, video evidence which is contrary to information in the written report, and any aggravating or mitigating factors that were not known during the sanctioning process.
As a matter of its discretion, as exercised by a simple majority of the members of the Appeal Committee (or solely in the discretion of an Appeal Officer), the Committee/ Officer may hear or deny hearing an appeal. In any appeal that the Appeal Committee/ Officer agrees to hear, the Committee may consider certain aspects of the decision of the Disciplinary Committee or may conduct a hearing in de novo. The members of an Appeal Committee or an Appeal Officer must not have been involved with the original ruling and may have no conflicts of interest in the process. The Appeal Committee/ Officer may affirm, cancel, alter, diminish, or increase the sanction imposed in the initial ruling, following the provisions of Regulation 17. A hearing or appeal decision will be communicated as outlined above for a sanction but will include participants in the hearing process and how and if due process was given.
Below is a brief overview of information contained in World Rugby Regulation 17 that is considered relevant to interested parties. This information may be updated on the World Rugby website and the version published at that site will prevail.
17.18 Assessment of seriousness of the Foul Play
17.18.1 Disciplinary Committees or Judicial Officers shall undertake an assessment of the seriousness of the Player’s conduct that constitutes the offending and categorize that conduct as being at the lower end, mid-range or top end of the scale of seriousness in order to identify the appropriate entry point for consideration of particular act(s) of Foul Play where such act(s) are expressly covered in Appendix 1. The assessment of the seriousness of the Player’s conduct shall be determined by reference to the following features:
(a) whether the offending was intentional;
(b) whether the offending was reckless, that is the Player knew (or should have known) there was a risk of committing an act(s) of Foul Play;
(c) the nature of the actions, the manner in which the offense was committed including part of body used (for example, fist, elbow, knee or boot);
(d) the existence of provocation;
(e) whether the Player acted in retaliation and the timing of such;
(f) whether the Player acted in self-defense (that is whether the Player used a reasonable degree of force in defending himself);
(g) the effect of the Player’s actions on the victim (for example, extent of injury, removal of victim Player from the game);
(h) the effect of the Player’s actions on the Match;
(i) the vulnerability of the victim Player including part of victim’s body involved/affected, position of the victim Player, ability to defend himself;
(j) the level of participation in the offending and level of premeditation;
(k) whether the conduct of the offending Player was completed or amounted to an attempt; and
(l) any other feature of the Player’s conduct in relation to or connected with the offending.
Based on the assessment of the offense(s) under consideration against the above features of offending, the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer shall categorize the act(s) of Foul Play as being at the lower end, mid-range or top end of the scale of seriousness of offending and identify the applicable entry point as set out in Appendix 1.
17.18.2 For offenses categorized at the top end of the scale of seriousness of offending, the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer shall identify an entry point between the period shown as the top end for the particular offense and the maximum sanction in Appendix 1. (3)
17.19 Mitigating Factors
17.19.1 Having identified the applicable entry point for consideration of a particular incident, the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer shall identify any relevant off-field mitigating factors and determine if there are grounds for reducing the period of suspension and subject to Regulations 17.19.2 and 17.19.3 the extent, if at all, by which the period of suspension should be reduced. Mitigating factors include the following:
(a) the presence and timing of an acknowledgement of the commission of foul play by the offending Player;
(b) the Player’s disciplinary record;
(c) the youth and/or inexperience of the Player;
(d) the Player’s conduct prior to and at the hearing
(e) the Player having demonstrated remorse for his/her conduct to the victim Player including the timing of such remorse; and
(f) any other off-field mitigating factor(s) that the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer considers relevant and appropriate.
17.19.2 Subject to Regulations 17.19.3 and 17.21.1, for acts of Foul Play the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer cannot apply a greater reduction than 50% of the relevant entry point suspension (prior to any increase for aggravating factors). In assessing the percentage reduction applicable for mitigating factors, the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer shall start at 0% reduction and apply the amount, if any, to be allowed as mitigation up to the maximum 50% reduction.
17.19.3 In cases involving offending that has been classified pursuant to Regulation 17.18.1 as lower end offending, where:
(a) there are off-field mitigating factors; and
(b) where the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer considers that the sanction would be wholly disproportionate to the level and type of offending involved; the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer may apply sanctions less than 50% of the lower end entry sanctions specified in Appendix 1 including in appropriate cases no sanction.
17.20 Aggravating Factors
17.20.1 Thereafter, the Disciplinary Committees or Judicial Officers shall identify any relevant off-field aggravating factors and determine what additional period of suspension, if any, should apply to the case in question. Aggravating factors include:
(a) the Player’s status generally as an offender of the Laws of the Game; (4)
(b) the need for a deterrent to combat a pattern of offending in the Game where the teams participating in the Match or Tournament have been put on notice that such a need exists; and
(c) any other off-field aggravating factor(s) that the Disciplinary Committee or Judicial Officer considers relevant and appropriate (including poor conduct prior to or at the hearing).
- World Rugby Regulation 17: Discipline and Four Play
- World Rugby Appendix 1 –Sanctions for Foul Play
- World Rugby Appendix 5 – Summary Disciplinary Process
- World Rugby Regulation 18: Misconduct and Code of Conduct
- World Rugby Regulation 20: Disciplinary and Judicial Matters
- USA Rugby Disciplinary Procedures
- World Rugby Head Contact Process
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