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EXCLUSIVE: RFL warns clubs, players over behaviour

An email obtained by Forty20 News says inappropriate behaviour has already been noted. The RFL has sent out a warning to Super League clubs and players to be on their best behaviour and follow social …

An email obtained by Forty20 News says inappropriate behaviour has already been noted.

The RFL has sent out a warning to Super League clubs and players to be on their best behaviour and follow social distancing rules, or risk serious damage to the sport.

The Super League season is set to resume on August 2 with a triple-header of matches before closed doors.

The RFL has emailed the 12 clubs to reinforce the importance of their staff and players following the social distancing rules and guidelines, while admitting they already have examples of individuals not doing so and sanctions could follow in the future if these instances continue.

The governing body has also suggested a code of conduct that all clubs and their employees could sign up to and follow.

“We are all obviously aware, and part of, the incredible efforts and work that is being put into the return of Super League in 4 weeks’ time,” Karen Moorhouse, the RFL’s chief regulatory office, wrote in an email obtained by Forty20 News.

“We also all understand the importance of a successful return (and completion of the revised Super League season) to our relationship with Sky and therefore all of our finances.

“In addition to the player welfare implications, this will be put at significant risk, if we have Covid-19 cases within the game.

“Whilst detailed work is ongoing (led by Doctor Gemma Phillips and Professor Ben Jones) regarding potentially limiting the number of individuals who would have to isolate if a player (or other essential staff member) tests positive: the position remains that a single positive test could lead to the isolation of other members of his team, and any team they have recently played, for 14 days.

“You will all appreciate the impact on the fixture list if this occurs, by implication the threat to the broadcast contract and therefore the potential longer-term damage to the sport.

“In all of our discussions regarding return to train and the return of matches we have stressed the importance of player (and other essential staff) behaviours to the success of the return to the sport and this remains paramount.

“Whilst I am sure most individuals are behaving in an appropriate manner; unfortunately, we have examples of where this is proving not to be the case.

“In addition, as a country we would appear to be on a knife edge – with on the one hand some of the areas in which our clubs operate / players live being listed as areas where local lockdowns may be considered and on the other hand pubs re-opening on Saturday.

“Behaviours of individuals over the next few weeks could therefore be critical to the success of the return of Super League.”

This the week RFL plans to roll out training for all individuals involved in the return to training this month, provide clubs with educational footage and run briefing sessions for coaches, physios and Covid leads.

Moorhouse warned that rugby league’s reputation could take a hit if players or staff are publicly seen to be breaching government rules.

“Whilst my main concern is actual behaviours, as an additional point, I would also like to flag the reputational damage that will be caused to the Game (and your own clubs) if individuals are publicly seen to be breaching rules – whether on social media or otherwise,” she wrote.

“The government has agreed to allow professional sport an exemption to the rules that apply to the rest of society; however, in return expects the athletes to act professionally and set standards.

“Whilst we strongly believe that this issue is best dealt with by proactive buy-in and understanding, I should flag that given the absolute importance to the game, should issues continue to arise then we would have also have to look at reactive compliance measures (with breach of the Return to Train Policy being Off Field Misconduct).”

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