Paul Cullen explains changes to disciplinary rules amid crackdown controversy

The RFL has been determined to crack down on foul play and high shots since the beginning of the 2022 season.

With over 25 yellow and red cards already being brandished this Super League season, there have been concerns from some voices that the crackdown has been too strong, whilst others point to the necessity to protect the players.

However, in a bid to explain just why the rules have been strengthened, Disciplinary Match Review Panel chief Paul Cullen and the RFL’s Director of Operations and Legal, Karen Moorhouse, were special guests on a Thursday night extravaganza on Sky Sports.

And Cullen revealed just how different the law is in 2022 resulting from the removal of one word from the regulations.

“On late contact, up until last year the wording in the guideline said ‘excessive flexion’, but that has been taken out,” Cullen explained.

“Evolving scientific knowledge means we are responding and safeguarding the players on the field but we are also trying to make it attractive.”

A group of former players is reported to be looking to take legal action against the RFL for the dementia that they claim has arisen because of their Rugby League careers and a lack of care while they were playing.

“Those claims relate to players years ago and they will be considered against the landscape at the time,” said Cullen.

“That is something that’s happened, but what we’re concerned about now is what we know now and what the public expects now in terms of how we protect sportspeople.

“Whilst it is there in the background, it isn’t driving what we are doing – it’s advice from medics in the industry.”

For Cullen, he sees the improvement in players’ tackling technique with each passing game.

“The game’s moved on, players know their boundaries and I see that behavioural change in every game I watch.

“There is the odd one or two that get charged but they are making the changes as we speak.

“The threshold has been lowered on contact off the ball, the late hit on the passer after the ball has gone.

“You can’t hit in the back and then run off; before we were looking for excessive flexion, but now that’s out – a caution will now be a Grade A and a Grade A will be a Grade B, because the threshold has been lowered.”

For the RFL’s Director of Operations and Legal, Karen Moorhouse, when challenged by Sky Sports pundits Brian Carney and Barrie McDermott about engaging with the fans over the rule changes, said: “The fans are really important.

“We do fans’ surveys at the end of every year and the fans have their say, but I don’t know whether we have asked them that question of the clampdown on high tackles going too far in surveys.

“I prefer to look at the stadiums and whether it’s full or not and looking at the number of viewers. We are not put off that we are trying to do the right thing to safeguard the sport.”

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