Debate: Should captains be punished more severely?

Round 21 of Super League is only one game old, yet there are already plenty of talking points to discuss from the game on Thursday night. Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers both had the chance to move top of Super League with a win, but they couldn’t be seperated in a thrilling 24-24 draw.

However, the biggest talking point from the game surrounded Leeds and England captain Kevin Sinfield, who was sent off for the first time in his entire career after headbutting Tigers full-back Luke Dorn in the latter stages of the contest. With their Challenge Cup semi-final against Warrington Wolves now just three games away, Leeds fans will be sweating over the availability of their captain as he faces the disciplinary panel next week.

But in incidents like these, should captains – men who are supposed to set a precedent out on the field and lead by example – be dealt with more severely than other squad members? We examine both sides of the coin, with arguments for both cases.

YES, captains should be treat differently
When you are given the captain’s armband in sport – whether it is playing in a local park on a Saturday, or captaining your country in a World Cup – you are automatically assumed an extra level of responsibility. It is your job as captain to ensure you set the right example to all those playing around you, particularly younger players who are looking to make their mark in the game.

Of course Kevin Sinfield is afforded one moment of madness – he has had an exemplary disciplinary record up until now – but as a captain, this kind of behaviour has to be stamped down on harder than with any other player. The RFL should take a serious look at the recommended sanctions for a headbutting charge and think carefully over their next move. Sinfield is a leader for both club and country – he certainly won’t do anything like this again, but the RFL must show that leaders cannot be seen to act in this manner.

NO, he’s the same as everyone else
No matter whether a player has a captain’s armband on or not, a headbutting charge is clearly a very serious case. Referee Ben Thaler had no hesitation in sending Kevin Sinfield off, and that was undoubtedly the correct decision. But to charge him more severely just because he is the captain is the wrong decision to make – he’s just the same as every other player.

Let’s not forget that the key factors the RFL take into consideration when banning players include previous disciplinary record. To that end, Sinfield should be treat more leniently if anything – his record was almost perfect before this unfortunate incident. Giving him an extra game or two – and potentially ruling him out of some big games – just because he is the captain is the wrong decision. It would send out a message to players that if they are ever to become captain, they have to act differently to everyone else out on the field. We need a level playing field when it comes to the disciplinary system – so give Sinfield the same treatment any other Leeds player would get.

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