The RFL’s Communications and PR Manager, Andrew Donnelly, has addressed some fans’ concerns following the news that three Super League clubs were heavily fined for breaching the RFL’s Operational Rules.
Castleford had been fined £35,000 (£15,000 suspended for two years) for failing to fulfil a Betfred Super League fixture against St Helens on 30 June and for breaching Covid protocols on the return coach journey from the Betfred Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium in July. A subsequent Covid outbreak at the club, resulting from a lack of social distancing on the coach, led to the postponement of additional Betfred Super League fixtures against Catalans Dragons (Saturday 24 July) and Leigh Centurions (Thursday 29 July).
Huddersfield Giants were fined £30,000 (£15,000 suspended for two years) for failing to fulfil a Betfred Super League fixture with Castleford on 6 July. Like Castleford in respect of the St Helens fixture, the Giants stated that they did not have enough players available.
In both cases the RFL advised that there were no grounds for postponement within the regulatory framework agreed between Super League clubs and the RFL – a framework which differentiates between matches that a club is unable to fulfil for Covid-related reasons and matches a club is unable to play due to other player availability issues. The clubs were also warned that failure to fulfil the fixtures could be considered ‘Misconduct’ under the game’s Operational Rules.
Separately, the RFL Board ruled that each club had effectively forfeited the game, and that their opponents be awarded the match and the competition points by a deemed score of 24-0.
Salford Red Devils were fined £25,000 (£12,500 suspended for one year) for breaches of Covid protocols which led to the postponements of two Betfred Super League fixtures this season. A significant Covid outbreak at the club, caused by the club’s failure to properly enforce RFL Covid protocols within its Designated Sporting Environment (DSE), resulted in the postponement of matches against Wakefield Trinity (1 July) and Hull FC (5 July).
However, some Castleford fans could not understand why the Tigers had been punished, whilst their Challenge Cup Final opponents St Helens hadn’t.
Andrew Donnelly has cleared that up: “There’s an ongoing investigation into Saints. As it happens the Castleford one was completed at more or less the same time as the Huddersfield and Salford ones hence they are all included in one release.”
Some Wakefield fans had also voiced concerns that they should have been awarded a 24-0 victory over Salford, however, Donnelly was keen to explain why that wasn’t the case.
“Salford passed the threshold for seeking a Covid postponement. In theory, the game could yet be replayed.”