Rugby League rule breakers set for structured punishments

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Players caught breaking the rules next season will have a clearer idea of what to expect following the introduction of more transparency in the game's disciplinary procedures.

Players summoned to appear at League headquarters will be, in effect, prosecuted by the new compliance manager, Karen Moorhouse. Offences will be graded according to their seriousness - from A for the relatively minor to F for the likes of gouging, spear-tackling and assaults on match officials - with a suggested range of suspensions for each.

A grade offences, for instance, would normally involve no further action, whilst one in band F would mean a ban of eight games or more. "These are guidelines only," said Moorhouse, a solicitor previously with the Football League.

"Where there are aggravating circumstances the compliance manager could seek a sentence outside the normal range."

The changes represent a move towards the Australian system of totting up and automatic suspensions, but stop short of that. Unlike Australia, there will be no formal system of pleading guilty to get a lighter punishment, although an admission of guilt and an apology to an opponent might be regarded as mitigating features.

The three-man disciplinary panel will in future issue an explanation of its decision in each case and there are plans eventually to open up the hearings to the Press. The RFL's match officials' director, Stuart Cummings, said that the main obstacle to that was finding a bigger room. Cummings also said that he was confident that players would adapt quickly to new rule interpretations this season, notably on offside, where defenders have to have both feet behind the front foot of the referee.

The first responsibility for enforcing that falls to Richard Silverwood in the Leeds v Hull KR match that kicks off the new season on Saturday.

Chev Walker, Rovers' new signing from Bath, will have a fitness test today to determine whether his hamstring injury has healed sufficiently to allow him to play against his former club. Walker is one of 10 new signings in the Hull KR squad for the match.