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What the RFL said about Liam Watts and Franklin Pele’s bans

Franklin Pele and Liam Watts

Round One of Super League saw 16 players charged with three men handed Grade E charges including Castleford Tigers’ Liam Watts and Hull FC’s Franklin Pele.

The third man was Micky McIlorum of Catalans Dragons and his four-game ban for a very similar offence to Liam Watts has seemingly been lost in the conversation.

The Englishman was sent off for contact with the head on the first tackle of the second-half when playing Warrington Wolves and he unsuccessfully challenged it.

Liam Watts pleaded guilty to the same charge with the Operational Rules Tribunal determining that the original grade handed out by the Match Review Panel was just and should stand.

As such he was hit with a four-game ban which comes in at the low end of the Grade E sentencing recommendation of four to six matches.

What has been most controversial is that Hull FC’s Franklin Pele who was sent off for a swinging arm to the head has received just a three-match ban for his Grade E offence, meaning his punishment is below the sentencing guidelines despite the ORT adjudging the grading to be correct.

The discrepancy in bans has caused confusion and anger among fans with many outlining the intent behind Pele’s actions compared to the unfortunate poor tackle technique by Liam Watts.

RFL release statement on controversial bans handed to Liam Watts and Franklin Pele

Franklin Pele

The Operational Rules Tribunal met last night to discuss the charges for Watts, Pele and McIlorum whilst also hearing the appeals of Ligi Sao and Ryan Brierley.

Upon the conclusion of the meeting, the RFL released a statement on the findings which have provided some insight into why Liam Watts has been punished as he has.

The statement in full can be read here but sections pertaining to Watts and Pele can be seen below.

“Hull FC’s Franklin Pele will miss three matches and teammate Ligi Sao one following tonight’s independent Operational Rules tribunals,” the statement began.

“Pele was referred to tribunal on a Grade E Head Contact Charge after being dismissed in the opening round of the Betfred Super League against Hull KR. He challenged the grading, which was adjudged to be correct. He is also fined £750.”

On Watts, the statement read: “Castleford Tigers’ Liam Watts will miss his side’s next four matches, having failed to have his Grade E Head Contact charge downgraded at tonight’s independent Operational Rules Tribunals. 

“Watts pleaded guilty to contact with the head of an opponent during Saturday’s Betfred Super League match against Wigan Warriors and the tribunal decided that the original Match Review Panel grading should stand.”

It has been suggested by some fans that Watts’ prior disciplinary record contributed to his lengthier ban but it is generally unexplained why Pele received a ban below the sentencing recommendation.

Four players receive downgraded charges

A number of charges did see their grading lowered with Hull FC’s Ligi Sao successfully appealing his Grade D charge to a Grade B, meaning he’s now suspended for one match as opposed to three.

– Franklin Pele – Grade E, Three Match Ban and fined £750
– Ligi Sao – Grade D lowered to Grade B, One Match Ban and fined £250
– Ryan Brierley – Grade C lowered to Grade B, fined £250
– Liam Watts – Grade E, Four Match Ban and fined £750
– Charbel Tasipale – Grade C lowered to Grade B,  fined £250
– Micky McIlorum – Grade E, Four Match Ban and fined £750
-Paul Seguier – Grade D lowered to Grade C, One Matc Ban and fined £750

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Michael Smith

    February 22, 2024 at 8:43 am

    Whilst I agree about protecting players from head high tackles l can’t stand the bias towards certain clubs and players firstly why did Smith of Wigan get nothing for dropping hooley on his head and has for watts any previous problems he has had before he has served his punishment also this is a new rule so everyone should start on a level playing field

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