Event shares the secrets behind the red card

An event that took place at Mumbles’ La Parrilla restaurant on Monday 23 October offered an exclusive insight into what happens after the red card is called at a rugby match.

The event was held by Neath and Swansea based solicitors, Hutchinson Thomas – with three of the firm’s partners acting as judicial officers at rugby hearings, this is a topic that the company knows well.

Roger Morris, Simon Thomas, Rhian Williams and, until recently, Robert Williams, have adjudicated and awarded bans on some of the most high-profile cases rugby has seen globally. Already this year they have played a key role in deciding the length of suspensions given to Edinburgh prop Michele Rizzo and Munster lock Fineen Wycherley, when both were shown the red card at separate matches.

The event gave guests an idea of the inner workings of how such decisions are reached, starting off with an explanation of why lawyers became involved in the sport during the European Cup in 1996.

Robert Williams explained that it is due to their legal training that lawyers bring the exact skills required to the table – they are able to stick to facts and evidence, as well as being practiced at following pre-determined processes. This crucially ensures that there is a global consistency on the way bans and penalties are imposed, and also, that the process is beyond reproach and scrutiny from other authorities. Robert Williams, said:

“Rugby is an extremely physical contact sport.  Some tackles could amount to an assault if they took place on the street. So it’s crucial that World Rugby has a system in place that deals with instances of foul play quickly, efficiently and consistently.

“For this reason, it is essential to involve individuals who, whilst having a sound knowledge of the game, have legal training so that they can separate themselves from any emotion or surrounding media attention and simply stick to the process and the facts.”

Through photos and videos, the event gave guests an insight into the process that the lawyers go through to reach a decision – once establishing that foul play was committed, the judicial officers then consider 13 different criteria such as whether the foul play was premeditated, the severity of any resulting injury and the player’s intention.

As may be expected, the event saw several lively discussions around the various potential outcomes that could have occurred at previous disciplinaries.