Worcester Warriors’ Bryce Heem appeared before an independent disciplinary panel to appeal the four-week suspension he was given for a tip tackle during the match between Worcester Warriors and Sale Sharks.
Former New Zealand 7s player Heem got a yellow card after he was deemed to have picked up and dumped Paolo Odogwu dangerously, contrary to Law 9.18.
He appealed his suspension, and after it was heard by a new panel comprising Gareth Graham (chair), His Honour Judge Martin Picton and John Doubleday, it was dismissed and he remains suspended for four weeks.
Panel chair Gareth Graham said:
“The issue on appeal was whether the disciplinary panel who heard the case at first instance was wrong to conclude that the “tip-tackle” by the player on Paolo Odogwu passed the red-card test.
“The player accepted before the appeal panel that there was an act of foul play and that it warranted a yellow card. This represented a change of stance from that adopted at the original hearing when the question as to whether the player’s action amounted to an act of foul play was challenged.
“The disciplinary panel at first instance gave limited reasons as to why it considered the red-card threshold was passed. In our view, it simply adopted a submission made on behalf of the RFU that if a player who had been tip-tackled landed on the head, neck or shoulder, a red card is warranted for the tackler, whereas a yellow card is warranted where a player lands on the back or side.
“At the appeal, counsel for the RFU was unable to demonstrate to the appeal panel the existence of any such guidance (either formally or informally). In the view of the appeal panel, this approach by the disciplinary panel was flawed.
“Instead, the assessment of whether a particular tip-tackle satisfies the red-card test requires an analysis of all three elements of the act of foul play – (a) lifting off the ground (b) dropping or driving and (c) head and/or upper body making contact with the ground.
“The decision as to whether a particular tip-tackle should attract a yellow or red card does not necessarily depend on whether a tackled player lands on one part of the upper body or another. We concluded that an act of foul play which causes another player to land on the shoulder (as part of a tip-tackle) does not automatically warrant a red card as opposed to a yellow card; the appropriate sanction depends on the circumstances of the particular act of foul play in question.
“As a consequence, we consider that the decision reached by the disciplinary panel was flawed in that it was made on an overly simplistic and misguided basis.
“On an appeal the discretion afforded by the RFU Regulations, in particular RFU Regulation 19.12.12, is wide. That discretion includes dismissing the appeal, quashing a finding and any sanction imposed, remitting the matter for a re-hearing or substituting an alternative finding and/or sanction.
“The appeal panel concluded, however, that sufficient facts were available to us in the reasoning of the disciplinary panel, supplemented by the video footage, so as to allow us to properly make our own assessment as to whether the decision that the tackle justified a red card was the correct one.
“In so deciding we were conscious that we should not substitute our own views of the facts for that of the disciplinary panel but were confident that we could reach a fair assessment of the issue on the available material.
“We concluded that the tackle did pass the red card threshold. This conclusion was based on the overall circumstances of the tackle, including that the player lifted Paolo Odogwu beyond the horizontal and dropped him on his shoulder. In the appeal panel’s assessment, this was a tip-tackle where the nature of the landing was potentially very dangerous to the tackled player and thus a red-card was justified in the circumstances.
“There was no appeal against the sanction (of a four-week ban) to be applied to the player if the appeal panel concluded that the red card threshold was passed. The appeal is therefore dismissed and the original sanction remains in place.”
You can view the tackle above and then briefly in the match highlights below.