IT seems inevitable that the RFL’s Match Review Panel is going to have to take a dose of its own medicine.
Yes, after the accusations made this week, it might actually have to come under a review itself. Turn the spotlight on.
Neil Hudgell is not the sort of person who blithely makes sensational claims.
Indeed, given the Hull KR chairman’s day job as the leader of a very successful firm of solicitors, he knows better than most about the legalities of what can and cannot be put out in the public domain.
So, if he says the Match Review Panel is not fit for purpose – as he did after yet another bizarre disciplinary decision this week – you immediately sit up and take note.
Hudgell has bitten his tongue before but now decided to force the subject towards the top of the sport’s agenda.
It is not before time. Speak to any chairman, chief executive or head coach – let alone the players – of not just Super League clubs but even more so the Championship and, inevitably, you will find some bemused head-shaking when it comes to the actions of the aforementioned adjudicators on on-field discipline.
Obviously, when players are being charged and suspensions – and fines – invariably occur, some individuals are going to be miffed.
But Hudgell, and most of his peers, have no issue with players being punished for illegal offences. It is more the inconsistencies between what constitutes foul play and the penalties metered out that irks them. In that regard, he says the Match Review Panel are particularly guilty and, if his claims are correct that members of the panel have, in retrospect, admitted to “missing” certain incidents, then questions clearly need to be asked.
As he rightly points out, it brings the game into disrepute and tarnishes its reputation when the weekly announcements over charges bring such incredulous reactions and disbelief.
Hudgell wants a overhaul of the Match Review Panel. He said: “Only a change in personnel, I believe, is capable of effecting the right change, and I call on the executive of the RFL to do that before a player suffers serious injury as a result of their inaction.”
However, I would go a step further and just make the panel redundant. Instead, why not ask the clubs themselves, led by the head coach of each, to effectively self-police – to a level – disciplinary matters.
For example, on review of their game, any incidents involving an opponent that a club has an issue with could be put forward to be investigated directly to the disciplinary panel.
There would then be an onus on those at the heart of the sport and who know its intricacies best – the coaches and their players – to eradicate and clamp down on any major incidents which may have been missed by the matchday officials and their ‘on-report’ facility.
There is enough common sense among them all not to abuse the opportunity and, effectively, it would be like the system previously used in rugby union of the sides themselves citing illegal play.
It would cut out the need for what Hudgell labels a “clueless” set of people ruining the spectacle of the game. However, it still leaves a nagging issue – how do you bring the disciplinary panel to order too? Over to you.