League One: Cougars call for changes at EGM

Keighley Cougars have formally submitted their request to call an emergency general meeting at the RFL after gaining sufficient support from other member clubs, with Sheffield Eagles, Barrow Raiders, Hunslet Hawks and Wakefield Wildcats backing their call for an EGM.

And Cougars Chairman Gary Fawcett says the resolution of his club’s dispute is crucial if the new structure to be implemented in 2015 is to avoid similar problems that affected his club this year.

Keighley have made the move after the dual-registration eligibility saga saw Batley and Doncaster initially docked three points before having them restored on appeal, ensuring Keighley’s relegation.

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While Fawcett concedes they have now given up hope of remaining in the Championship, they still want to be compensated, claiming their relegation into League One will cost them at least £250,000.

Keighley have decided not to purse legal action against the RFL, with Fawcett saying he prefers to take the issue to the member clubs.

“We had commenced a litigation process on September 18, and a wider campaign to bring pressure on the RFL board to reconsider the appeal panel verdict,” said Fawcett.

“When we embarked on the litigation we knew that such a process would be potentially costly and uncertain, so we were primarily interested in receiving the facts surrounding the matter from the RFL in order that we could make some informed decisions.

“My personal preference would have been not to go down the legal route if the RFL board had agreed to arbitration.

“However, during this process the RFL lawyers have refused, point blank, to go to arbitration.

“My overriding desire had always been to get the member clubs together to sort the issue out, as it affects all of the clubs in the game, certainly with the re-structure next year.

“If we have ineligible players playing next year and, by virtue of this, a Super League club is demoted into the Kingstone Press Championship, will the excuse that the rule had not been previously enforced be used?

“If not, why not?

“It has been used to justify not punishing Batley this year.

“So, has the precedent been set and will the offending club use this in their defence? If so, you can’t blame them and it is difficult to see how a disciplinary panel can justify deducting points as a punishment because it wasn’t done in 2014.

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“What is different next year compared to this year regarding this rule?

“Now we have the necessary support we can get the members together to discuss and agree what needs to be done about this issue.”

Fawcett is also campaigning for the RFL to introduce a form of independent arbitration for future disputes within the sport, though that will not be discussed at the forthcoming EGM, whose date has not yet been determined.

He added: “After discussions with the supporting clubs, we are simply focusing on solving a problem that, in my view, should never have happened.

“Clubs should be punished for playing ineligible players. It is really simple.

“When I was stopped for speeding on the M1 some years ago I said to the policeman that the car in front of me was speeding as well. He hadn’t stopped that car so he shouldn’t be fining me.

“He laughed and I duly received my points deduction and paid my fine.

“That’s the way the law works and the way the RFL operational rules should have worked.

“I sincerely hope that the member clubs see this the way I do, that the issue is resolved rapidly and we can all move on to what should be a very exciting season next year.”

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“Given all this, my objectives for the EGM resolutions are twofold.

“First, to resolve the situation so that any detriment to Keighley Cougars and Sheffield Eagles is put right, either through compensation or reinstatement, although, due to delays, reinstatement for us is simply not practical.

“And secondly, to change the disciplinary processes so that this problem never ever occurs again in the future. For this, I wanted the right to arbitration to be inserted into the Operational Rules.”