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Writing Guide: The Citing Narrative

The narrative is an essential part of the citing process and it will need to describe in detail the alleged act(s) of illegal and/or foul play and why, in the Citing Commissioner’s (CC) assessment, it has met the Red Card threshold.

Preparing an accurate and detailed narrative will ensure that the CC has carefully considered all the facts, the relevant Laws of the Game and the application of the Red Card threshold. It will also assist the player and the Judicial Officer/Disciplinary Committee in clearly knowing what is being alleged and why.

As with a Red Card, a player that has been cited is permitted to challenge the facts and/or the law and/or to assert that there was no act of foul play by the player concerned (i.e. mistaken identity or accident etc.) or that the foul play alleged did not meet the Red Card threshold. It is therefore very important that CC's set out their thought process in in a clear and comprehensive way.

Your role is to protect the integrity of the game in ensuring that serious alleged acts of illegal and/or foul play are brought before a Judicial Officer/Disciplinary Committee for determination. What happens after that is a matter for the tribunal, but you must do all that you can to ensure that you have investigated the matter as thoroughly as possible in the timescales stipulated and have provided a comprehensive report and any supporting statements/information and the relevant footage.

The tables that have been prepared (see below) are designed to assist you in the process of breaking down the incident and then constructing the narrative that fully reflects the facts, the law and your assessment.

You will be required to review each element of an incident in a chronological manner and end up with a detailed factual statement.

Once this has been done you can carefully consider the Laws of the Game, any relevant directives/guidance that have been issued (including any relevant disciplinary decisions) and determine whether the illegal and/or foul play has met the threshold required for either a full citing or Citing Commissioner Warning.

You may also be required to deal with what the match official did at the time e.g. if a yellow card had been awarded at the time and you subsequently consider, on review of all the facts etc., that the act has met the Red Card threshold then you will need to explain why your analysis differs from the match official.

In considering your narrative, there are a number of issues that you may also need to consider.

First, World Rugby’s disciplinary regime exists to penalise players whose foul play is other than accidental and one of its most important principles is to prevent the risk of injury to other players in a dynamic and physical sport. Players have an obligation to ensure that they do not cause injury to opponents or expose them to the risk of injury, so there is a presumption that any conduct which is proscribed by WR Law 9 merits a sanction.

Second, the offences listed in WR Law 9 do not require you to prove what was in the player’s state of mind. The Laws of the Game create offences of strict liability. By way of illustration, it is illegal to stamp on an opponent – rather than deliberately stamp, or recklessly stamp, unless of course the contact is entirely accidental in which case no act of foul play has been committed. An offence is committed if a prohibited (non-accidental) act occurs. If the CC determines from all available evidence that an alleged act was accidental, then there should not be a citing. The citing will be for dangerous play and whether an act is deliberate or reckless is a matter for the judicial panel to determine when considering sanction.

Third, injury is relevant to both the citing and disciplinary process. In the citing process, injury is relevant but it is not determinative. For example, the fact that a player sustains a serious injury during a legitimate tackle does not mean that the tackler should be cited. Injuries will inevitably occur in such a physical and dynamic sport. Your narrative should cover any injuries caused by the foul play confirmed by a medical report.

Fourth, the presence of factors such as provocation, self-defence and retaliation etc. are to be considered by the Judicial Officer/Disciplinary Committee, rather than the CC.

Fifth, consider any possible defences. When you are working through the process and considering whether to cite a player or not you should also consider any possible defences that the player could raise and whether these may have any merit. If so, you may not wish to cite the player or to downgrade the citing to a CCW (unless the player was yellow carded for the act on field). This is quite proper as the process must be fair to all concerned.