RFL Board Meeting – Law Changes

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The RFL Board considered a number of matters arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, and its implications on Rugby League.

The Board approved the introduction of a number of law changes for the resumption of the 2020 season, which had been recommended by June’s meeting of the Laws Committee, all with a specific intent of protecting the welfare of players, and mitigating risk.

These changes include the suspension of scrums, and the adoption of the “Six Again” rule that has recently been introduced to the NRL – details below.

The Board also considered the issues surrounding the resumption of the Betfred Championship and League 1 seasons, the possible impact on the Coral Challenge Cup, and the situation regarding promotion and relegation between Betfred Super League, Championship and League 1.

Following a survey of the 25 Betfred Championship and League 1 clubs that was conducted after their meeting last month to assess their current views, the Board observed that for a majority of clubs in each competition, playing matches behind closed doors is impractical, given the costs and other logistical issues.

However the Board also noted that a small majority of clubs at both Championship and League 1 level preferred to hold open the possibility of resuming the season given the changing situation regarding the cost of antigen testing and the possibility of playing in front of crowds – while a majority also expressed support for the possibility of a meaningful competition later in the autumn and winter if that was the best available option.

The Board also have sympathy for the issues at Super League level, in terms of the integrity of their competition, and the need for clarity well ahead of the resumption of their 2020 season on August 2.

Therefore the situation will be reviewed at the Board updates on the next two Mondays (July 13 and 20), with a decision to be made at the latest by July 23 – both on the resumption of the Championship and League 1 season, and on promotion and relegation between the competitions.

That timeline also fits with a deadline for the five Championship and League 1 clubs who have qualified for the Sixth Round of the Coral Challenge Cup, to decide whether they feel it is feasible to continue in the competition.

Simon Johnson, the RFL Chair, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has presented all sports with immense challenges. We continue to work through these challenges in Rugby League, and our approach throughout has been to consider the interests of all our member clubs, and of the game as a whole. That is why we have been keen to communicate and consult as often as possible – and that consultation has revealed a wide range of opinions.

“After our meeting today, we are confirming some significant changes to the way the game will be played on the field when Rugby League resumes next month – which we believe are important and necessary to prioritise the welfare of players, and the success of the season when it resumes.

“We recognise that further important decisions are necessary in terms of the tiers below Super League, and promotion and relegation – and that there is urgency in making these decisions, which is why we have set some firm deadlines to ensure clarity well before the resumption of the Betfred Super League season on August 2.”

The Board also discussed a number of operational matters following recent Regulatory Meetings of Betfred Super League, Championship and League 1 clubs.

The Board agreed to the simplification of the regulations regarding nationality and the limit on players who are not ‘federation trained’ by supporting the removal of the Quota Rule at all levels. This means that at Super League the only restriction will be that Clubs may employ a maximum of seven Non-Federation Trained players. At Championship and League 1 level the removal of any restrictions will be monitored.

The Board supported the adjustment of the RFL’s Governing Body Endorsement Requirements following Brexit, meaning that from 1 January 2021, new players with EU passports (other than UK passport holders or those with an existing right to work in the UK) will have to obtain a GBE to be signed by clubs. This includes the ability to base an application on appearances for any IRL Member and removing the requirement for players moving from Catalans and Toulouse to have met the requirements when joining those clubs. These changes have been agreed with UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration).

The Board agreed that the RFL Reserves League will be suspended for 2021; however, clubs may arrange friendlies – the suspension will be lifted ahead of 2022.

The Academy Competition will be extended to Under-19s in 2021, to allow a more sustainable one-team structure below first team with the temporary suspension of Reserves – Academy will be realigned to Under-18s for 2022, with the resumption of the Reserves.

The Scholarship Competition will be extended to Under 17s in 2021 only.

Law Changes

The Board have approved the adoption of all five law changes recommended for immediate introduction for the resumption of the 2020 season, as well as an amendment to the Operational Rules regarding the announcement of 21-player squads – details here https://www.rugby-league.com/article/56839/rfl-laws-committee-recommendations.

These changes initially apply at professional level only – although the suspension of scrums is already being included in the RFL’s work to expedite the return of the community game.

The Board noted that since the Laws Committee meeting on June 10, the recommended changes have been considered by separate meetings of the Betfred Super League, Championship and League 1 clubs.

The recommendations have since been developed, to reflect recent changes in the implementation of the Six Again rule in the NRL, and to agree on the replacement for scrums as a means of restarting the game – again, with Laws Committee members kept informed.

Coming Soon – From The Mountain Top

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A sneak preview of a book due to be released shortly as part of the Heritage Lottery funded project into the history of Batley Rugby League. Production and distribution are on hold at the moment but will resume as soon as the current health crisis allows.

The book is written by John Wroe & based on hundreds of hours of research from Kenny Pearson, along with thousands of hand written articles by Terry Swift.

Craig Lingard, Head of The Heritage Project, told us “I would like to place on record my sincere thanks to John, Ken and Terry for their massive efforts and contributions to see this book published”

As soon as we have more details on availability and pricing these will be published across our Social channels. Watch this space!

For more details of the Batley Heritage Project visit https://www.gallantyouths.co.uk/

WE SALUTE YOU #OurHeroes

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Batley Bulldogs are proud to create our own Roll of Honour for NHS workers and Carers to truly show our appreciation, as a Club, for those members of our family who are there for us all the time and now more so are helping us get through these difficult times.

For this we will dedicate a full page on the club website HERE. Please take a read for full details and to appreciate the fabulous people we have associated with the club. We also need your help to nominate new members.

http://www.batleybulldogs.co.uk/roll-of-honour/

BULLDOGS STANDING TOGETHER

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The response to our Half Time Draw plans for this coming Sunday has been fantastic, showing what a close club and community we are, and how much we all want to see the club survive through this difficult time for all.

One amazing gesture in particular has prompted Chairman Kevin Nicholas to update his statement from yesterday.

“In my recent update i mentioned that we had all worked hard for the last 22 years and were not going to let the present circumstances ruin everything, so we needed to ensure the Club got through this.

What i should also have mentioned was we have a duty to all those before us who have keep the Club going for 125 years as a Rugby League Club and before that since 1880.

What has prompted me to think further is a very quick and kind gesture by John Atkins, the former Batley director.
As soon as we announced we were starting a weekly half time draw as a first small initiative to help the Club, he immediately came forward and said he would sponsor the £100 prize. This is an individual not a massive company.
In our eyes as well as being a financial help it is also a magnificent gesture which inspires us going forward.
Thank you John.

I remember as a supporter in 1989, the Club was in a mess, the ground was in a poor state and the finances were perilous to say the least. Stephen Ball came along and formed a board with Ron Earnshaw, Richard Illingworth and none other than John Atkins, and in simple terms saved the Club and turned it round. Generally speaking, apart from a short spell in 1996/97, i believe we have not looked back since as a Club. So again thank you to John for his part.

That is one of many reasons why we will ensure we come out of this as their hard work in keeping the Club afloat then cannot be in vain.

So let’s make our first initiative a resounding success and get this draw off to a flying start.

Please spread the word and get people buying tickets. Click here to buy tickets.”

Cheers,
Kevin Nicholas
Chairman

THIS IS YOUR CLUB – FROM THE CHAIRMAN

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On 14th March I went on holiday to Portugal as we did not have a game that weekend, intending to return on 21/3 so that I could attend our scheduled vitally important game away at Whitehaven the following day.

To say the last week has been dramatic is a woefully inadequate understatement, as in those 7 days away the world has changed in a way never before seen. There has been and will be tragic loss of life, so that should be everyone’s primary concern, but we do have to try to plan for times when we beat this and as a Club we certainly have to do this and we have now had discussions about how we can move forward and survive.

Let us start by being positive. We have not supported this Club all our lives and the present Board and officials have not worked tirelessly now over 22 years for us now to lose everything. So one way or another we can say that Batley Bulldogs will survive as a semi professional Club that the Town and all connected with it can be proud of. Let’s get that perfectly clear to everybody who wants to know.

Next continuing on a positive note we are in a position to believe we have got as good a chance as ANY Club because firstly we own our Stadium free of mortgage so we have a base, at arguably the oldest ground in world Rugby League, and secondly as we speak, because of the way we run the Club, we are not burdened with significant debts so we go into this crisis on a sound financial footing. Not all Clubs can say that but we can and do.

Having said that by no stretch of the imagination will it be easy and we know there are testing times ahead as we face a period with no income and equally we do not have the luxury of savings we can fall back on to ride the storm. We will rely on the government measures already announced and any others on the way. We will also rely on support from Sky and the RFL. I should add that I believe Ralph Rimmer and the RFL are working tirelessly to get everybody through this as best they can. So we need help but we also have to help ourselves to get through this period and come out the other side as best we can.

What are our plans?
In the same way that the government have to change their plans daily we initially are looking at the next 12 weeks as they are. We are constantly reviewing our finances and how we can  meet our responsibilities as they arise, and we are working on the stadium and infrastructure of the Club whilst we cannot do other work surrounding running a rugby club and playing games.

By the time we get back playing our facilities will never have looked so good as we try to use the time wisely to improve. We are also aware of the need to try to keep social media as active as possible to keep interest in the sport and our Club. So we are all actively trying our best to get in a good position to survive.

We do have some debts to address and we do need to try to get in whatever monies we can to help. We do also realise that people may very well have their own financial concerns so may not have an abundance of spare monies to help their Club in any event. So we now wish to kick off some small initiatives which will especially help the more people we can engage with the Club.

So how can we help in the short term?

1. We have seen the success of the Featherstone v York virtual game and have spoken to our friends there who maintain this was a great help to their Clubs, backed by their supporters trying to help ensure the future of their Club and having a bit of much needed fun on the way.

We are presently working towards a Bulldogs Legends v Supporters game again details to be announced hopefully sometime later this week Again watch this space on how you can support this initiative which we hope will bring in finance and create social media interest for supporters.

2. Whilst ever we do not have games we hope to arrange a weekly draw with a chance to win money. Each week we will try to vary it to create a bit more interest but initially to get us up and running we aim to just have a simple draw like a raffle.

So here goes-
In week 1 we are asking supporters to buy tickets at £2 each (thats £1.80 + 20p transaction fee) via our ticketing website. Once purchased it generates a ticket with a number on it . That number will then go in a draw for a prize in the first week of £100. The draw will take place at 3.45pm on next Sunday 29th March.

That would be half time at our game if we were playing which is appropriate in place of our normal half time draw. As weeks go by if it is popular we hope the prize will increase. Again we need your support to make this work. So click here to buy your tickets and good luck.

That’s it for now but hopefully this is just the start of our survival plan.

THIS IS YOUR CLUB- BATLEY BULLDOGS

KEVIN NICHOLAS
CHAIRMAN

A message from The Club Chaplain

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A message from the Chaplain to the players, coaches, staff, fans and all the family of Batley Bulldogs:

I can’t deny that this is a difficult time and much as we miss our sport, we are learning that there are things even more important. The Bible emphasises the importance of family and the Lord Jesus commands us to ‘love our neighbour as ourselves’.

Ever since I first became involved, family and caring for one another were the qualities that were so clear and so much a part of our club. I want to urge us to use those wonderful qualities to support the Bulldogs family at this time.

Please let’s not leave anyone out but keep watch for each other. Use social media to keep the fun and banter going (I’m sure James Brown will find a way to tease me about alleged activities in Batley!), message or phone those you can’t visit or meet up with and let’s be ready to share our needs and help those who can’t get out. Mental health is as important as physical health at this time, so let’s make sure we talk to each other and look out for anyone struggling.

No club has better community or family than Batley, if there is one word that sums us up then surely it is “Together”. We win together, we lose together, we celebrate together, we grieve together, and we are all in it together. So, I’m confident that when all this is over, we will come back together and be that strong caring family that we have always been. Until then be assured of my love and prayers; I’m available for anyone who wants to talk to me.

God Bless you , Derek

The one and only Gwen Whiteley

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We are devastated this weekend with the news that our stalwart, Gwen Whiteley has sadly passed away.

A very familiar and popular face on Matchdays, Gwen’s self designated roll at the club was to raise funds in the bars through her famous raffle. The club never bought prizes, she supplied, begged or “borrowed” them, and the figures as you will see, from the efforts of one lady acting alone, are simply astounding

Gwen first held her matchday raffle on Boxing Day 2006, following on from a previous from the raffle which funded food for the A team games. From this day on she would pester, in the politest of manners, anyone who happened to cross her path. RFL Officials, Sponsors, Guests, Players, Staff, MPs, RL Superstars, The Mayor. Anyone at all. All greeted with a smile and a friendly chat as she took their money before they realised what had happened!

In that first game she made £204. By the end of the Featherstone Rovers game this year she had single handedly raised, for club funds, £21,541.

Furthermore, this does not include the money taken on Pink Weekend games from 2015 onwards as her records from those games simply say “Given to Pink”

Some, by no means all, items purchased directly using monies raised by Gwen are:

For the gym and Squad:
6 Rowing machines, An ultrasound machine, Physio benches,Ice machine

For the kitchens and hospitality:
Fridges, A griddle, Bain Maries, Tables, Cutlery, Crockery, Dishwasher, Glass washers, Coffee machine, Plate warmer,

For the Stadium:
Alarm system , Cooney Suite PA System, Contribution to the Stadium PA, Many of the seats in the stand.

And in 2008 half of the season’s raffle funds, £800, were given to Craig Lingard’s benefit year activities.

This is an incredible contribution to our club’s past and future, from a fabulous lady who will be very sadly missed. Not only did Gwen raise all this, she was a huge part of matchdays at the club, extremely popular in the Boardroom and Ron’s Lounge, a key member of the Breakfast Club, and a Batley Bulldogs fan through and through.

God Bless you Gwen, and from the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

Betfred Championship Clubs in emergency meeting

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Clubs from the Betfred Championship and League 1 met by conference call with the Rugby Football League today to consider the implications of the suspension of the 2020 season enforced by the latest Government guidelines surrounding Covid-19 and social distancing and mass gatherings.

Ralph Rimmer, the RFL Chief Executive, said: “Public health and concern for the most vulnerable is everyone’s priority.

It was important that we exchanged information and allowed the clubs to discuss their position as soon as possible following the confirmation that the season will be suspended.

“This will have a significant impact on clubs at all levels, as on all businesses, in all sectors. It is important for us as a governing body to be able to represent those clubs, given what a powerful force for good they are in our communities.

“It was a positive meeting at which all agreed on the importance of a collegiate approach, both for the Championship and League 1 clubs and the game as a whole – focusing on three key areas of player welfare, club sustainability, and the integrity of the competitions.” 

“We will maintain regular dialogue with the clubs, as well as with Government, broadcasters and sponsors, over the period of our initial suspension until the weekend of 3 April, as we work together and look forward to the resumption of games.”

The RFL has consistently followed the Government’s advice.

All activity in the Community Game is suspended – training, games, festivals, sessions, courses etc.

The RFL will also reschedule coach education courses over the coming weeks.

The RFL is making more Rugby League coaching, learning and fun resources available to coaches and clubs, parents and children – focused on staying well and engaged in the sport in different ways. There will be content, quizzes, competitions and prizes for children and young people, and for adults.

The RFL is working with RLWC2021 to make sure that everyone in Rugby League and our wider communities can access the new Mental Fitness Charter resources.

And a full programme of Rugby League content lined up for Our League and rugby-league.com; starting with great matches like England v Tonga semi-final from RLWC2017 on Saturday.

The RFL has also suspended England Performance Unit activity, which means the gatherings that had been planned for the England Wheelchair squad in Sheffield this weekend, and by the new England Head Coach Shaun Wane at Old Trafford on 23rd March, have been postponed. In each case, they will be rearranged as soon as possible, consistent with Government advice.

SEASON SUSPENDED UP UNTIL 3RD APRIL INITIALLY

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The Rugby Football League and Super League Europe today announce a suspension of fixtures in the Betfred Super League season, initially until 3rd April, during which time the season’s structure and fixture rescheduling will be considered.

This follows the latest Government advice regarding social contact and mass gatherings.

The Super League clubs discussed a range of contingency plans with the RFL at their board meeting in Huddersfield, and the situation will be reviewed with broadcasters and sponsors throughout the initial suspension.

These changes will also apply across other competitions including the Championship, League 1, Betfred Women’s Super League and the community game, with the RFL to have further discussions of the implications at meetings of Championship and League 1 clubs and community board over the next couple of days.

Joint statement from Robert Elstone, the Executive Chairman of Super League Europe, and Ralph Rimmer, CEO of Rugby Football League: “These are unprecedented times, and they present significant financial and commercial implications for Rugby League, which will be further considered during the period of suspension.

“Super League is also an international competition, and consideration has to be given to our clubs in Canada and France, particularly around travel restrictions and scheduling fixtures.

“Player welfare and maintaining the integrity of the competition are key concerns moving forward. Equally our responsibilities to Rugby League communities remain front of mind for all of us.

“The whole country is facing major challenges – and the support of our fans, partners and stakeholders is needed now more than ever before.”

LANCASHIRE STRIKE FIRST IN ORIGIN SERIES

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Yorkshire 8 – 15 Lancashire

Lancashire claimed first blood in the Pre-Season Women’s Origin Series at Weetwood today, beating Yorkshire 15-8 in the first of three matches to be played in the next week.

The Red Rose scored three tries to two, with the watching England coach Craig Richards highlighting the contribution of Wigan loose forward Victoria Molyneux – and also the previously hidden goalkicking ability of her Warriors club-mate Georgia Wilson.

“We’ve arranged this series with a specific focus on our preparations for the 2021 World Cup,” Richards explained.

“The games are 30 minutes each way, which we thought would increase the intensity – and we are playing three in a week to replicate the sort of tight turnarounds that the girls will have to cope with in tournament rugby.

“We’re going to get a load of data from this series which will be a big help as we count down towards 2021.

“We also tried something different with goalkicking, whereby each try would be followed by two conversion attempts, worth one point each.

“That allowed us to have a look at a few different kickers in a match environment – and we discovered that Georgia Wilson from Wigan is a very good goalkicker.

“Vicky Molyneux was excellent for Lancashire as well, with a really hard-working performance at loose forward – and both of the Army girls who have joined the squad, Carrie Richards and Abby Eatock, stood up really well.”

Richards, originally from St Helens, gave Lancashire the lead with a well-taken try set up by Jodie Cunningham, although both Wilson and Castleford’s Tara Stanley failed with their conversion attempts.

Yorkshire then pulled level with a try from Kelsey Gentles, with two more failed conversion attempts, this time from Georgia Roche and Fran Goldthorp.

Tara Jones put Lancashire ahead again, and this time there were two successful conversions from Stanley and Wilson to extend their lead to 10-4.

Bradford’s Amy Hardcastle reduced the arrears to two points with a second Yorkshire try, but again Roche and Goldthorp were unable to convert.

Chantelle Crowl of St Helens scored the clincher, with Wilson landing her second goal.

The second match of the series is at Batley’s Fox’s Biscuits Stadium on Wednesday evening, before match three back at Weetwood next weekend – after which, the players will switch their focus to the start of the Betfred Women’s Super League season.