Section A2: Minimum Standards
A2:1 The Facility Standards are focused on ensuring appropriate standards for the benefit of the Game including:
(a) Playing facilities – to seek to ensure appropriate facilities in those areas which affect performance and player safety and welfare;
(b) Customer experience – to seek to give supporters and commercial partners a good experience to allow Clubs to increase revenues;
(c) Media images – to seek to provide an attractive visual product for TV and media, thereby achieving increased revenues for distribution to the Clubs.
A2:2 A2:1 Subject to the other provisions of this Section A2, each Club shall ensure that at all times its ground (or the ground any of its teams play at) complies with the applicable Facility Standards published by the RFL from time to time and the Laws of the Game.
A2:1 If a Club does not meet any of the Facility Standards (either of the league it is in or any higher league or any competition it competes in (or wishes to compete in)) it may apply in writing for dispensation from the Board. The Board has absolute discretion in granting any such dispensation (and shall take into account such factors as it considers appropriate) and may make it subject to such terms and conditions as it considers appropriate (including the payment of a sum of money if the terms and conditions of any such dispensation are not met).
In deciding whether to grant a dispensation and the terms of such dispensation, the Board shall consider: (a) the severity of the breach (marginal, partial or outright failure); (b) the action taken by the Club, or proposed to be taken, to remedy the breach (based on the Club providing documented evidence of such actions/proposed actions, including a detailed timeframe for completion); (c) the level or risk or health and safety implications for players, staff or spectators; (d) the cost of remedying the breach; (e) the level of compliance by other Clubs in relation to that particular criteria; and (f) other factors relating to the applicant Club including its location.
A2:4 Any Club that does not comply with the Facility Standards applicable to its league or competition it is competing in (subject to any dispensations granted by the Board) or does not comply with the terms of any dispensation granted by the Board shall be guilty of Misconduct.
For a Club to be eligible for promotion to the Super League or Championship (as applicable) for any Season its ground must meet the Facility Standards of the Super League or Championship (as applicable) or the Board must have granted a dispensation in accordance with A2:3 above by, in each case, the Friday of Round 23 of Super League in the previous Season (being 24 July 2015 for the 2016 Season). For the avoidance of doubt a dispensation may include an extension of time beyond the date above to complete any work necessary to meet the applicable Facility Standards.
Any request for a dispensation by a Club that wishes to be eligible for promotion, together with all evidence on which a Club wishes to rely on in relation to such dispensation, must have been provided in writing to the RFL by the end of June in the previous Season.
A2:6 Any Championship Club(s) which qualify for the Super 8s Qualifiers but which are not eligible for promotion to the Super League (due to not meeting Facility Standards) shall be entitled to participate in the Super 8s Qualifiers but if, at the end of the Super 8s Qualifiers, any of the Club(s) are 5th or higher in the Qualifiers league: (a) they shall be deemed to have finished 6th (and 7th if there are 2 such Clubs and 8th if there are 3 such Clubs) for the purpose of determining which Clubs are promoted and/or play in the 4th v 5th Play Off Match; but (b) shall be considered to be the highest placed Championship Club(s) (in order of finishing position) for the purpose of determining distributions in the Championship for the following Season.
Any League 1 Club(s) which are not eligible for promotion to the Championship (due to not meeting the Facility Standards) shall be entitled to participate in the League 1 Play-offs; however:
(a) If the winner of the 1st v 2nd Play-Off does not meet the Championship Facility Standards, the losing Club shall be promoted;
(b) If neither of the Clubs participating in the 1st v 2nd Play-Off meets the Championship Facility Standards, neither Club shall be promoted and instead the Club that finished 2nd to bottom in the Championship shall not be relegated; however the winner of the 1st v 2nd Play-off will go on to compete in the League 1 Grand Final series (and not the loser as envisaged in A1) and section A1 shall be deemed amended accordingly;
(c) If the winner of the League 1 Grand Final does not meet the Championship Facility Standards, the losing Club shall be promoted;
(d) If neither of the Clubs participating in the League 1 Grand Final meets the Championship Facility Standards, neither Club shall be promoted and instead the Club that finished 2nd to bottom in the Championship shall not be relegated (or, if that Club has already not been relegated pursuant to paragraph (b), the Club that finished bottom in the Championship shall not be relegated).
A Club may appeal: (i) against a Board decision that it should not be granted a dispensation to the Facility Standards and is accordingly not eligible for promotion; or (ii) against a Board decision that another Club should be granted a dispensation to the Facility Standards and is accordingly eligible for promotion, in each case, on the basis of and only on the ground that:
(a) there has been an error of law; or
(b) that the decision was unreasonable or unsupportable having regard to the evidence presented to the Board.
A2:9 Any appeal must be in writing and be received by the RFL no later than 7 days after notification / publication of the RFL Board’s decision. The appeal must contain a statement setting out grounds for appeal and provide copies of any documentation upon which the Club intends to rely in support of the appeal. At the same time the Club must lodge £5,000 in respect of the costs of the appeal. This sum is non-refundable.
A2:10 Upon receipt of the appeal, the RFL shall appoint a Chairman of the Facility Standards Appeal Panel (FSAP), who shall be a solicitor or barrister of at least 5 years post qualification experience. The Chairman shall appoint at least 2 further members of the FSAP. The procedure to be adopted beforehand and at the appeal hearing shall be at the discretion of the FSAP. The FSAP shall have the discretion as to whether or not they wish to instruct any independent experts to provide evidence to assist the panel in determining the grounds of appeal. All parties acknowledge and agree that it is necessary for the integrity of the competitions for any appeal to be heard and decided expeditiously (and, in any event, within 4 weeks of the date of notification / publication of the Board’s decision and that all deadlines by the FSAP will be set accordingly.
A2:11 The appellant Club shall have the onus of proof of the matters set out in the appeal on the balance of probabilities.
A2:12 Any Club potentially directly affected by the decision shall have a right to make written submissions to the FSAP and shall thereby submit to this appeal process and shall not submit to the courts.
A2:13 A2:1 If the members of the FSAP are not unanimous, the decision of the majority of them shall prevail. The FSAP shall give written reasons for its decision.
A2:14 Members of the FSAP shall be entitled to receive from the RFL a reasonable sum by way of fees and legal expenses.
A2:15 The RFL Board and the Clubs will be bound by the decision of the FSAP which shall be final and binding. The SSAP shall have the power to do one of the following: (a) confirm the decision of the RFL Board that the relevant Club is / is not eligible for promotion; or (b) set aside the decision of the RFL Board (which it may do subject to such terms and conditions as it considers appropriate).
A2:16 The SSAP shall have no jurisdiction to make any award of costs. Each party shall bear their own costs.
INSPECTION OF GROUNDS
A2:17 The RFL may appoint representative(s) to inspect the ground of any Club at any time and report to the RFL on the same. For the avoidance of doubt, the RFL may exercise its rights under this Clause, irrespective of whether or not concerns have been raised by another Club, the Police, a Match Commissioner or other person.
If as a result of any report receives pursuant to the paragraph above or otherwise the Board considers that a ground does not meet the Facility Standards, or a Club has not complied with the terms of any dispensation granted pursuant to A2:3 or any ground is otherwise unsuitable it may:
(a) refuse to allow a Match or Matches to be played thereon; and/or
(b) give instructions to the Club concerned as to the conduct of operations at the ground and/or order the Club concerned to undertake such alterations and/or improvements as it thinks fit and the Club concerned shall comply with such instructions and/or orders; and/or
(c) refer the matter to the Compliance Manager for investigation.
A2:19 Each Club shall formulate and maintain in force ground regulations, which must be in accordance with such instructions as the RFL may give from time to time and which must, in particular, state that each entrant to the ground must comply with the regulations and these Operational Rules. Each Club shall ensure that such regulations are notified to the RFL by 15 January prior to the start of each Season and upon each occasion when amendments are made thereto.
A2:20 Each Club that, pursuant to the Facility Standards, is required to have a ground safety certificate shall: (a) by 15 January prior to the start of each season, supply a copy of a current ground safety certificate to the RFL; and (b) advise the RFL in writing immediately if such certificate is amended or revoked.
A2:21 Where, pursuant to the Facility Standards or otherwise with the Board’s approval, a Club is permitted to play its first team games on a non-designated ground it shall manage the ground in every respect as if it was a designated ground under the Safety at Sports Grounds Act 1975 and any other relevant legislation.
A2:22 Without prejudice to any other provision of these Operational Rules, each Club agrees to ensure that its Ground and facilities comply with all rules, regulations, statutes or any other rules which have the force of law in the country in which the team plays its home matches and which relate to Health and Safety, Safety at Sports Grounds and safety of spectators at such grounds. Such regulations and statutes in the UK shall include (but not by way of limitation), the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Occupiers Liability Acts 1957 and 1984, the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975, the Fire Precautions Act 1971 the Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sport Act 1987 and the Equality Act 2010.
ARTIFICIAL GRASS PITCHES
Artificial grass pitches may be utilised in all competitions subject to the following conditions:
(a) The installed artificial grass pitch has been laboratory tested and shown to fully comply with the relevant laboratory test requirements of the Rugby Football League Performance and Construction Standards for Synthetic Turf Rugby League Competition and Training Pitches.
(b) Surfaces to be used on Super League, Championship or League One pitches shall have satisfied the ‘Stadium’ category of performance whilst surfaces used on all other levels of competition shall satisfy the ‘Stadium’ or ‘Community’ categories of performance.
(c) The installed pitch shall hold a valid Field Test Certificate showing it fully complies with the relevant field test requirements of the Rugby Football League Performance and Construction Standards for Synthetic Turf Rugby League Competition and Training Pitches.
(d) The installed pitch shall be available for inspection by the RFL (or its agents) at such reasonable time as the RFL shall require and the Club using the pitch shall be responsible for the reasonable costs of such inspections.
A2:24 If a Club has a giant screen facility, it shall ensure it complies with all directions and guidance that the Board may give from time to time in relation thereto.
CHANGE OF GROUND
(a) No Club shall change permanently the ground where it normally plays competitive matches during its league season unless exceptional circumstances can be shown to exist. No Club shall permanently change the ground where it normally plays competitive matches without both first giving 30 days' notice to the Board and obtaining the prior written consent of the Board. The Board shall either refuse or grant the application and there shall be no appeal from the Board's decision.
(b) No Club shall change temporarily the ground where it normally plays competitive matches without the prior written consent of the Board. The Board shall take such criteria as it thinks fit into consideration when reaching its decision.
(c) The Board shall be entitled to require a Club to produce such documents and may request the attendance of such individuals as it may reasonably require in order to assist in making its decision in (a) or (b) above.
(d) If any Club wishes to change its ground (permanently or temporarily), it must, (at the same time as it notifies the Board of its intent to change grounds, prove to the Board that the new ground complies with the RFL's Facility Standards (or seek the relevant dispensations) and all relevant legislation in force from time to time and these Operational Rules. For the avoidance of doubt, compliance with these Standards shall not mean that the Board is obliged to grant the application and non-compliance shall not prevent the Board from granting such dispensations as it thinks fit.
(e) In the event that the Board consents to a Club temporarily or permanently changing its ground in accordance with paragraphs (a) and/or (b) above, the Board shall be entitled to impose such reasonable sanctions and/or conditions (financial or otherwise) on the Club as it considers fit.
PITCH DIMENSIONS/PLAYING AREA
A2:26 Pitch dimensions shall be registered with the RFL by Clubs at least 7 days prior to the start of each Season, by completing the form prescribed by the RFL from time to time and sending it to the Board and once registered must not be altered during the Season without the permission of the Board. If a Club fails to comply with its obligations under this clause, its pitch dimensions shall be deemed to be those on which it played on during the preceding Season.
A2:27 The playing area of each ground must be in a fit playing condition for each Match (in the appropriate Match Official's opinion). Clubs are also responsible for ensuring that the pitch and surrounding areas are maintained in a safe condition.
There must be a permanent solid barrier excluding spectators from the playing area. In addition and as provided in the Facility Standards the minimum size of each ground are:
(a) a clear playing area of not less than 88 metres from goal line to goal line and 55 metres from touch line to touch line;
(b) that the dead ball line shall be not less than 6 metres nor more than 11 metres behind the goal line;
(c) that there shall be a suitable clear margin of 3 metres along the touch lines and dead ball lines;
Where the achievement of (a) and (b) above can only be achieved to the exclusion of (c) then for the avoidance of doubt and as a temporary measure only the pitch should be marked to ensure that there is a clear margin of 3 metres with the distance between the dead ball line and the goal line reduced accordingly. Where the playing area is larger than the minimum specified above and the ground otherwise fulfils requirements it shall not be reduced for the purposes of any Match unless directed by the Board of Directors. The appropriate appointed Match Official may order the pitch markings to be changed if he thinks fit prior to allowing a Match to kick off
Where a Club cannot achieve a clear margin of 3 metres along the touch lines and dead ball lines but can achieve 2 metres it may apply to the RFL for dispensation to have collapsible or padded structures within 2m and 3m of the touch and dead ball lines. For the avoidance of doubt a padded TV camera may be placed in between 2m and 3m of the touch and dead ball lines but photographers may not. Persons carrying out official duties under these Operational Rules may also be within 2m and 3m of the touch and dead ball lines.