Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union


DISCIPLINE

The EPRU Disciplinary Committee consists of five members who serve at the request of the Executive Board. The committee reviews sin-bin and send-off reports submitted by referees and administers penalties in accordance with the USA Rugby Disciplinary Guidelines. Other problems with behavior of our members, on and off the pitch also fall under their jurisdiction. The committee strives to be fair to all concerned and to protect the participants and good name of rugby.


Anyone interested in serving on the committee should contact the disciplinary director at large, the president or the secretary of the union.


EPRU Disciplinary Policies & Guidelines — Revised December 2015 to include EPRU Variations on World Rugby Regulation 17


Preliminary Hearings – Pursuant to the new disciplinary procedures issued by USA Rugby, every alleged offender is entitled to a hearing prior to the Disciplinary Committee imposing any sanction. The following rules will apply for those hearings:


Notice. You will receive notice of a booking or citation via email. Notice via email to a player’s team shall be treated as constructive notice to the player. It is the responsibility of the team to notify the player and engage them in the disciplinary process, including advising them of all of these policies. No additional action is required to demand a hearing, but you should review these rules to be sure you comply with all of the requirements of this Policy.


Suspension Pending Hearing. Any player who is shown a red card by the referee for any reason shall be suspended for not less than one match, or eight days, whichever is longer, unless and until such suspension is rescinded by the Disciplinary Committee pursuant to a hearing.


Call In Number. The call-in number and access code for all hearings will be provided to you via email with your notice for the hearing.

Schedule of Hearings. Unless otherwise published at EPRU.org, hearings will start at 5:00pm every Wednesday. All participants must be on the phone line and ready to proceed promptly at 5:00pm. The order of cases will be at the discretion of the presiding member of the Disciplinary Committee. Except with the permission of the presiding member of the Disciplinary Committee, late callers may be deemed to have failed to participate in the hearings. Alleged offenders who are not present when their case is called will be deemed to have failed to participate in their hearing.


Mute Your Phones. All callers will keep their phone muted (electronically, not simply with your hand over the microphone) until their case is called. Callers with undue noise or echo on their line will be asked to call in again and may be asked to mute their phone during their case as well.


Standard of Review. The purpose of the Preliminary Hearing is to assign sanctions for factual incidents reported by the referee. The Preliminary Hearing will only entertain factual rebuttal of the referee’s written report or testimony if (a) there is clear and convincing evidence that the referee mis-identified the individual(s) involved in the incident or (b) there is incontrovertible evidence that the incident described by the referee did not take place. An alleged offender must notify the presiding officer at the outset of the hearing that the alleged offender intends to present evidence related to one or both of these exceptions.


Procedures & Decorum. All questions or statements shall be directed to the presiding member of the Disciplinary Committee. Except as specifically authorized by the presiding member, only the members of the disciplinary committee shall be entitled to ask questions of the witnesses. No honorifics are to be used (no “your honor”, etc…), but you should observe reasonable decorum (“Sir, Ma’am, Mister, Mizz, etc…” are appreciated).


Evidence or Other Documents. If you intend to present any photographic or video evidence, you must do so before the hearing by noon on the day of the hearing. Please email any such documents or photos to the member of the Disciplinary Committee assigned to administer your case. Please reference the name of the alleged offender in the subject line of your email. Evidence which is not provided prior to the hearing may be excluded at the discretion of the Disciplinary Committee.


Witnesses. Each alleged offender shall be limited to two witnesses (the alleged offender, if testifying, plus one other; or two others who are not the alleged offender), unless the alleged offender requests, and is granted, permission in-writing for additional witnesses by the Disciplinary Committee. All Witnesses for all matters must be on the teleconference waiting to participate at the scheduled time listed above.


Referee’s Report or Testimony. The referee’s report shall be presumed to be the referee’s testimony for the purposes of the preliminary hearing. If the referee chooses to call in, then his/her testimony on the call shall be treated as his/her sole testimony on the matter and may not be impeached due to any inconsistency with the report as submitted.


Conditional Waiver of Hearing. At or before the outset of each hearing, the presiding official will indicate, with his/her rationale, what the “entry point” for sanctions would be under IRB Regulation 17. At that time, the alleged offender may choose to conditionally waive the remainder of the hearing, provided that the sanction does not exceed the entry point indicated. If the alleged offender conditionally waives the remainder of the hearing, no appeal shall be permitted, provided that the actual sanction does not exceed the entry point. This process may be completed via email prior to the hearing, in which case the waiver of appeal shall still apply if the alleged offender chooses to waive his/her hearing.


No Contest. If the alleged offender fails to request a hearing, or fails to participate after requesting a hearing, the Disciplinary Committee will treat the matter as if the alleged offender stipulated to the entirety of the Referee’s written report. No further testimony shall be permitted from the referee during the hearing.


Determinations. The Disciplinary Committee will endeavor to issue a written determination within 48 hours of the hearing.


Appeals. Any offender who has not waived his or her right to a hearing shall be entitled to take an appeal to the Disciplinary Appeals Committee by sending written notice of the appeal. The Disciplinary Appeals Committee will respond to your demand for appeal directly.


FAQs Regarding Disciplinary Hearings


What’s the hearing for? The hearing is an opportunity for you to address any “mitigating factors” that should lessen the penalty imposed for a disciplinary infraction. In the case of first-time offenders in all but the most egregious circumstances, the Disciplinary Committee will impose the minimum recommended sanction, which will still be a suspension for most infractions, but usually only a week or perhaps two.


But I didn’t do anything! Maybe you did and maybe you didn’t. The trouble is that the Disciplinary Committee is obligated to take the referee’s word for it. Our only job (assuming that you can’t disprove the referee’s report with photographic or video evidence) is to figure out the appropriate sanction. 99% of the time, that’s a suspension, sometimes with additional probation. If the referee takes back their report or calls into the hearing and says he or she got it wrong, then the Disciplinary Committee take the referee’s word for it too. If they stand by their report, you need to produce video or photographs that clearly show you did not do what the referee said (either the referee got the wrong person or the incident didn’t take place).

Why do we all have to be on the line for all of the hearings? Each week, the Disciplinary Committee may have 2-3 hearings. We can’t really schedule them because some are very short and others are very long. The best and fastest way to get through them all is to have everyone call in at once and let the Disciplinary Committee figure out the order to take them in. Generally, we’ll try to get the shortest cases done first.


Why can I only present two witnesses? To save everyone’s time. If you really need to have more witnesses, you can ask for permission from the Disciplinary Committee. Witnesses who are redundant are not better or more persuasive.


Why can’t I cross-examine the referee? Because the factual accuracy of the referee’s testimony isn’t in question unless you have hard evidence that the report was incorrect. Under both World Rugby, USA Rugby, and EPRU policies, the referee gets the benefit of the doubt as far as what happened.


Should I have a lawyer represent me? You can, but it’s not required. You should have your lawyer call the Disciplinary Committee Chairperson before you go paying for them to participate. That will give your lawyer the best possible position to represent you and can result in a much better outcome for everyone.


What’s this “Waiver of Hearing” thing about? It’s primarily for first-time offenders.. The idea here is to let first time offenders just skip the hearing if they’re going to just serve a minimum suspension.


In most cases in the EPRU, the World Rugby-recommended “Low End” or “Middle Range” Entry Point sanctions are applied, sometimes with probation tacked on after the suspension. When you are cited, the Disciplinary Committee will tell you what the Entry Point is for your sanction. If you are okay with the Entry Point, then you can ask to waive your hearing and accept whatever the Disciplinary Committee imposes. The Disciplinary Committee can impose less than the Entry Point, but not more than the Entry Point if you waive your hearing.


Two important points about waiving your hearing: first, if you waive your hearing, you also waive any appeal of the determination that the Disciplinary Committee issues. Second, you must have permission to waive your hearing. If the Disciplinary Committee decides that a waiver is inappropriate (for example, if the case alleges especially egregious behavior that may result in a very strong sanction), then the Disciplinary Committee can decide to reject your request to waive the hearing.


How does Probation Work? Probation isn’t a sanction, it’s the option for the Disciplinary Committee to re-open the current incident and apply additional sanctions if you engage in similar conduct during the probationary period. So, if you’re under probation, and you get cited or booked again for similar behavior, you’re going to be facing two cases; one for the new conduct, and another for the old conduct. That’s not a fun place to be. So, if you find yourself on probation, we strongly recommend that you not wind up before the Disciplinary Committee again during the term of that probation.


Important side note: because probation isn’t a sanction on its own, if you choose to waive your hearing, the Disciplinary Committee can still impose probation in excess of the Entry Point.


What if I just don’t participate in the Hearing? This is important – waiving your hearing and just not participating are two different things. If you waive your hearing, you know you will not get more than the Entry Point sanction that the Disciplinary Committee shares with you. If you simply don’t participate, the Disciplinary Committee can impose whatever sanction it thinks is appropriate based on the Referee’s report and you won’t know what it is until you read the Determination. They may still be the same sanction in the end (especially if this is your first offense), but they might not be. Your best approach is to ask about waiving your hearing and find out what the entry point is, you don’t have to waive the hearing if you think the entry point is wrong or two high, but at least then you’ll be making the decision and you’ll have an opportunity to share whatever information you think you need to.


EPRU Variations on Disciplinary Sanctions in World Rugby Regulation 17


As required by USA Rugby, the EPRU follows the procedures and recommended sanctions indicated in World Rugby Regulation 17 in instances where any player is ordered off during a match. The EPRU Disciplinary Committee Chairperson (or their designated member of the Disciplinary Committee) issues initial determinations based on prior disciplinary history and the referee’s report of the incident and players have the opportunity for a hearing to review that initial determination before the entire EPRU Disciplinary Committee. Players also have an opportunity to appeal the decision of the EPRU Disciplinary Committee to the EPRU Appeals Committee.

Regulation 17’s recommended sanctions are listed in the forms of weeks of suspension to be assessed. In recognition of the regional and national variations in scheduling among the various members of World Rugby, effective December 6, 2015, the EPRU has modified the World Rugby Regulation 17 recommended sanctions such that:


(1) Any suspension, of any duration, must result in a player sitting out (at least) one regular season or playoff match, and


(2) Suspensions of one (1), two (2), or three (3) “weeks” will be sanctioned using the longer of weeks or matches (for example, “one match or one week, whichever is longer”); and


(3) Suspensions of four (4) weeks or longer are to be served according to the calendar dates imposed by the Disciplinary Committee (subject to item #1 above).


To avoid confusion, please consider the following examples:


Example #1 – If a player is suspended for three weeks, he/she must not play any rugby (including friendlies, tours, or scrimmages) for at least three weeks, or three regular season or playoff matches – whichever takes longer (even if the player’s team’s schedule causes that suspension to extend into the following season).


Example #2 – If a player is suspended for four weeks, he/she must not play rugby (including friendlies, tours, or scrimmages) for four weeks and, if the suspension arises from an incident at the end of a season such that there are no regular season or playoff matches for the player’s team during the suspension period, the player must sit out at least one such match at the beginning of the following season.