The Rugby League Players Association are working with the RFL to avoid players being hit with disciplinary action if they are unavailable for the extra game to determine who plays Championship rugby in 2019 – as the late changes to the system were labelled a ‘disgrace’ by one of the coaches whose side could be involved.
As part of the changes to the structure for next year, a game between the bottom-placed side in the Championship and the losers of the League 1 play-off final will determine the 14th and final team to compete in the second tier next year.
However, with that meaning an extra week added to the season for two clubs, and with many players and staff having pre-booked holidays, it has led to a situation where some clubs would be unable to potentially field a side if they end up in the game.
One such club are Workington, whose coach Leon Pryce has hit out at the nature of the changes – and warned that with around six or seven players set for pre-booked holidays, he could not field a full 17.
He told League Express: “I’m fearful that there’s a definite possibility that could happen.
“We’d have to cobble a team together at the very least and we wouldn’t be able to choose our full-strength team, so it’s not a reflection on the team that’s got us this far.
“I’ve heard some clubs say they’ll refund the people that are going away but we don’t have the money for that and we simply can’t afford to do it.
“It’s an absolute disgrace, let’s be honest. How can a game just be thrown in when the season has ended? This wouldn’t happen in any other sport – people have booked holidays for the first available week after the season and now they’re facing up to rebooking? All of a sudden there’s an extra game thrown in? How is that even right?”
League Express understands that any players who go on holiday without the club’s permission and miss the game could be subject to disciplinary action, and could even be in breach of contract.
And the head of the RLPA, Garreth Carvell, admits time is of the essence as they seek to work with the RFL to try and reach a resolution on the matter.
Carvell, who has met with several clubs that could be involved in the game, said: “We’ve been made aware of the situation by our members and have spoken with the RFL on this matter.
“Ultimately the decision was made with the consultation of the clubs. The decision has given some of the clubs a lifeline in terms of playing Championship rugby in 2019 but unfortunately, this has caused problems for the players that have booked holidays as the extra game scheduled has been added very late in the day.
“We are working with and will continue to work with the RFL in order to gain assurances around disciplinary action if it were to be taken by individual clubs. We will work with the RFL going forward on these matters to ensure players views are taken into account.”
Pryce, meanwhile, believes someone should be held accountable for refunding players who cancel holidays at the last minute – but insists he will not be pushing his players to do so.
“The lads won’t be cancelling their holidays,” he said.
“For full-time athletes rugby league is your life but these lads work too. There has got to be some sort of compensation for Rochdale, Bradford, Workington or any team who has players involved in this game. If it’s proven they’ve a pre-booked holiday, they get refunded for it.”