Workington Town have issued a club statement setting out their frustration with the RFL a day before their crucial promotion clash against Swinton Lions, when they could turn up with as few as twelve players after being refused a dispensation to make short term signings by the governing body.
It reads as follows: Last Sunday Workington Town lost against Bradford Bulls and an opportunity to be promoted into the Championship was missed.
Workington early on in the match lost 2 key players through injury. In the 68th minute Fuifui Moimoi was sent off for an alleged high tackle with the score line 19-8 in favour of Bradford. As a result of losing this match Workington are now due to play Swinton Lions RLFC who finished 11th in the Betfred Championship.
At the commencement of the 2018 season this additional match was never envisaged and one that was not in the Rugby League calendar. Even when the deadline for signing players expired on 27 July 2018, the prospect of this additional match was again never envisaged, discussed or arranged.It has been well documented that given the fact that the season should officially have been over on 7 October, a number of contracted players had prearranged holidays which no doubt would have been booked weeks and months ago. Indeed it’s quite usual for players to take their holidays in the few weeks after the end of the season before pre-season training commences. After the Bradford match on Sunday, the club have continued to have regular meetings to resolve the problems surrounding this week’s game against Swinton. The club took advice from the specialist law firm FrontRow Legal. As a result of that advice, a decision was made to ensure the player Fuifui Moimoi was legally represented at the disciplinary hearing. Usually those hearings take place on a Tuesday but the hearing was adjourned until Thursday 11 October. Our lawyers needed time in order to fully prepare and gather evidence as the player and the coaching staff held the belief that the unfortunate incident involving Liam Kirk was as a result of a head clash rather than a head high tackle.
The RFL disciplinary Chairman Barry Lilley JP would only accept an adjournment if Fuifui was stood down from the playing squad for this week’s game. As a result, a decision was made to press ahead with the disciplinary hearing which took place on the evening of 11 October at RFL headquarters in Leeds. The player appeared with head coach Leon Pryce with legal representation from Richard Cramer. Despite a lengthy hearing and some strong evidence to show the injury to Liam Kirk was caused as a result of a head clash, the tribunal not only decided to reaffirm the 3-match ban but imposed a further 1-match claiming that the appeal was “frivolous”.
Losing Fuifui for the game is another devastating blow, especially with players on holiday and a number of players with injuries preventing them from taking the field of play on Sunday. Having consulted with Workington’s lawyers, the club made a decision to proceed with a formal claim against the RFL but restricting the relief to one of granting dispensation to both Workington and Swinton to allow emergency loans as the RFL had done so for both Featherstone Rovers and Leigh Centurions the previous week. Whilst the legal advice was to seek the consent of the RFL, it was also possible to have gone to the courts to seek an injunction to restrain either the game taking place on Sunday or restrain the RFL from blocking the registration of a number of loan players who had previously played for Workington during the season.
Regrettably the RFL decided that there was no merit in granting dispensation and as a result the club are now in danger of fielding only 12 players for one of the most important games, not only this season, but over the last few years.
The club want to show absolute commitment not only to the players but also sponsors and supporters. The club wish to leave no stone unturned to make sure that they have the best possible chance of winning Sunday’s match leading to promotion to the Championship. Whilst the club are still considering its legal options, it is acutely aware that time is running out but also wish to avert the threat made by the RFL to seek costs against Workington by utilising external lawyers to oppose any claim at the High Court. The club do not want to jeopardise the club’s financial position by exposing itself to further legal fees.
Other options were considered which included potential arbitration proceedings, however this proposal has been rejected by the RFL.
The club wish to assure everyone that they have acted in the best interests of the club this week by taking legal advice and giving the club the best prospect of a successful outcome on Sunday.