‘This isn’t driven by an insurance claim’ – Super League referee explains decision to crack down on foul play and high/late shots

SUPER LEAGUE referee and Director of Legal and Operations at the Rugby Football League (RFL), Robert Hicks, has refuted claims that the crackdown on foul play and late/high shots was insurance driven.

In 2021, a group of former rugby league players outlined their intentions to bring legal action against the RFL due to the governing body’s alleged failure to protect them from brain damage following concussion.

A crackdown at the beginning of the 2022 Super League season saw a record number of yellow and red cards and subsequent bans being handed out.

Striking and late hits had been punished with higher gradings in order to change player behaviour – and it began to have the desired affect towards the back end of the year.

However, Hicks has denied that the sport’s crackdown was due to rugby league’s insurance deal running out during mid-2022.

“This isn’t driven by an insurance claim, it’s driven by data in a fast moving sport,” Hicks said.

“The reality as to why the insurance company reinsured was because of the work we are doing in terms of protection – they are comfortable where we are.

“There is an increase in premium. It’s a legacy claim, the reality is the sport has to change and adapt as and when information is fed through.

“We did a review of our regulatory framework, it was a club-led review. The whole purpose behind this was to reflect on the changes on the medical position and the increased number of charges from late tackles or head contact.

“We needed to try and change the culture within the sport. You have to have buy in from players and coaches.”

Now the amendments for 2023 have been released.

Proposed amendments:
– Make better use of fines as a sanction
– Grade D – PCN
– Increase use of totting up to three previous offences
– Guidance on frivolous/unreasonable
– Remove use of Comparison Clips
– Communications/Awareness of system for all involved
– New sanction framework