Keighley Cougars call for RFL emergency meeting

Keighley Cougars are trying to force an emergency general meeting at the RFL as they continue to ask questions over the ineligible players saga.

The Cougars have also written to 20 MPs about the issue as they pursue legal action in conjunction with Sheffield Eagles, and almost 2,000 people have signed an online petition started by supporter Nigel Hall.

Last week the club held a public meeting with supporters to outline their position, and Chairman Gary Fawcett has now issued a further detailed statement.

Fawcett said: “Ineligible players were played in Kingstone Press Championship fixtures this season and no punishment for the breach of the rules has been applied.

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“In Rugby League’s first season in 1895, St Helens fielded an ineligible player and, guess what, they were deducted points that were the equivalent of one win.

“The prohibition around playing ineligible players is at the core of the sport, indeed of any sport, and it always has been.

“When I start to think about the situation I think about the questions we have, so far, asked the RFL. Some of them are as follows.

Gary Fawcett
Gary Fawcett

“With an issue as fundamental as player ineligibility, and with the incidence of appeals panels overturning disciplinary panel decisions being historically ‘very low’ (the RFL’s own words), how did it come about that this appeals panel overturned the previous decision?

“Why was the appeals panel convened at Red Hall before 2.45pm on 28th August? As far as I am aware disciplinary and appeals panels have always run between the hours of 5.30pm to 8.30pm on a Tuesday, Wednesday or a Thursday.

“Was the timing of this panel changed to accommodate specific panel members? if so, who was on the appeals panel?

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“Why did the appeals panel accept ‘new’ evidence to overturn the previous decision when the evidence wasn’t new and would not have been allowed by the appeals panel under the RFL’s own Operational Rules?

“And where are the minutes from both meetings?

“We have requested, on multiple occasions, the minutes, ancillary documents and recordings of the panel meetings and the RFL are refusing to send them to us despite this being required under their own Operational Rules.


“The RFL have offered to meet up with us but it is with the understanding that there can be no settlement with Keighley Cougars or Sheffield Eagles regarding this issue.

“So, probably the only thing that could be achieved at such a meeting would be to drink a cup of tea.

“Further, the RFL’s lawyers have replied to our pre-action litigation letter and have stated that with so complex a case it is difficult to see what documents should be made available and they’ll come back to us with a full response on October 17.

“That’s a long time.

“What are we to make of this response?

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“Do the RFL care about the problem at all?

“Do they think slowing the process down will make the issue go away?

“Or is the problem so difficult to solve in the circumstances that any solution would cause embarrassment for the sport, so they are seeking to avoid this?

“We have put solutions to the RFL and, so far, they have refused to consider them. In the meantime, the fans and the clubs are ramping up the pressure.

“We have almost 2,000 signatures on our online petition on

“We have written to over 20 MPs and the All Party Parliamentary Committee for Rugby League.

“The All Party Parliamentary Committee tweeted on Saturday September 27 saying that they have written to the RFL asking questions.

“Some fans have written to the sponsors of the game alerting them to this issue and many have written to the RFL Board members expressing their concern.

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“We’ve tried to get the issue on the agenda of the Championship CEO forum on October 8 but to no avail.

“We have kicked off the joint legal process and responded strongly against the RFL lawyer’s request for more time stating that any delay further and massively prejudices the Cougar position.

“The media have been very supportive of this issue. Experts in the game have stated that the points should have been deducted and remained deducted. Period.”

Fawcett has also outlined the club’s next steps over the matter.


He explained: “I have asked the RFL for a list of members of the RFL (under Companies Act 2006 they are obliged to send me this within five working days) with a view to calling an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM).

“We need 10 per cent of the members to request such a meeting and then the directors of the RFL are compelled to convene it.

“The members will decide what resolutions will be put forward at the EGM.

“For the Cougars, I am considering the following and hope the members agree with them.

“For the Championship competition to be run as a 13-team competition in the 2015 season.

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“The RFL to commit to an independent review of the current disciplinary process and to agree to adopt the recommendations of the review within the required timescales.

“For example, one of the things that deeply concerns me about the current disciplinary process is that it ends within the RFL organisation. There is no right to arbitration.

“If you don’t agree with the decision you are stuck with it. Enlightened bodies, such as the FA, allow arbitration as a normal part of the process.

“We would also like the RFL Board to be prohibited from expending RFL members monies in defending legal actions from any of the member clubs unless it has been expressly sanctioned by a majority of the member clubs in a meeting where the issue has been presented and discussed.

“As part of our overall strategy the above is one of a number of initiatives we have going on to ensure the pressure is ongoing and increasing.

“If the reader thinks this issue is just about Keighley Cougars, it’s not.

“This is about the integrity of our sport.”