Frequently Asked Questions – Peach Town Tournament Suspensions
I received an email called ‘Notice of Suspension.’ Am I suspended?
The email with the above title was sent to all 24,000+ members of the Rocky Mountain Rugby (RMR) listserv, as RMR does not know (yet) at this time exactly who participated at the unsanctioned event.
If you were a participant at the 2020 Peach Town Scrum Down Rugby Tournament in Palisade, Colorado, you are suspended indefinitely, effective immediately. You know if you were there; do not wait until you become aware that RMR knows you were there.
Why was this email received in the middle of the tournament?
Rocky Mountain Rugby officials were not aware of this event being scheduled or taking place until being alerted by concerned members of the community on the afternoon of Friday, September 11. Organizers of the tournament made no effort to contact the governing body or its officers to alert them in advance of the event, and the organizer’s choice to plan and operate this event outside of sanctioned channels meant it was off the radar of RMR officials.
Why am I suspended?
The suspension is for two reasons:
1.) Colorado is not in Stage 5 of the Return to Play Guidelines, and no inter-squad competition should be happening. RMR also believes the event is in violation of Mesa County Public Health Order 2020-03 and is in the act of investigating the matter. However, even if Mesa County cleared the event (and we’re not sure it did in the format it’s taking place), the event features teams from outside Mesa County including member and non-member clubs from other states.
2.) As a geographical union under USA Rugby, Rocky Mountain Rugby always reserves the right to impose sanctions upon members that play in non-sanctioned events. This is typically treated on a case by case basis, as Rocky Mountain Rugby acknowledges there is rugby played outside of the governing body structure. That said, there is a zero tolerance for issues involving player welfare (such as a global pandemic) where members have been explicitly told not to participate in rugby activities of this nature.
But I’m not a member of Rocky Mountain Rugby. How can you suspend me?
You participated in an event in Rocky Mountain Rugby’s area of jurisdiction and, as RMR is a member of USA Rugby, other governing bodies under USA Rugby will honor the suspension through reciprocity. If you are not a member of USA Rugby, Rocky Mountain Rugby, or any groups affiliated therein, the suspension will not technically affect you until such time that you are a member. However, your actions during this time may affect the future ability of you or your club to participate in activities and we will be asking for clubs cooperation in enforcing these suspensions. If you are currently a member, or intend to join USA Rugby, Rocky Mountain Rugby, or any groups affiliated therein in the near future, your suspension is in effect immediately and you are prohibited from continuing rugby activities.
Those that wish to argue that they’re not a member because registration is closed do so at their own risk. Registration is closed, in part, because there are no sanctioned activities taking place at this time. Rocky Mountain Rugby is within its rights to suspend those participating in its geographical territory and enforce (or have other bodies and clubs enforce) the suspension from now through the time registration re-opens and thereafter. If you are suspended and continue to participate in rugby activities, you will likely increase the severity of the sanction you receive. Further, if you participated at this event and your club is aware of that and does not take action, your club may similarly be held accountable.
But this event was operated by a group outside Rocky Mountain Rugby! Doesn’t that matter?
Yes and no. If non-member entities could fully support their own ecosystem and infrastructure, not only would it not matter from an organizational standpoint – but suspensions wouldn’t matter either since they’d be toothless. Realistically, there is nothing to stop non-members from being okay with playing against members. However, unions are perfectly within their rights to restrict their members from playing non-members and issue penalties, fines, and sanctions accordingly.
This suspension is also not simply about members playing in an event with non-members, or playing in an unsanctioned event. It is very specifically about members wantonly violating the Return to Play Guidelines despite public information from Rocky Mountain Rugby that includes statements such as, “All play is currently suspended” and “Those that violate safety policies, public health orders, and the return to play guidelines will be liable to sanction, penalty, and/or suspension by Rocky Mountain Rugby. This includes event organizers, event participants, and members affiliated with event participants/organizers if they violate the policies, orders, and guidelines in place.”
The participants at the 2020 Peach Town Scrum Down Rugby Tournament are, in the opinion of Rocky Mountain Rugby, violating numerous health and safety guidelines. Given the nature of the event, it is not simply enough that the organizers choose to believe they are following all guidelines. Rocky Mountain Rugby has been clear that “if an individual, club, or program believes a local ordinance allows them to be less restrictive than a statewide ordinance, they still may not interpret policy on their own and may not move past the listed stages without the explicit, written permission of Rocky Mountain Rugby. Those that violate this directive will be subject to fine, penalty, and/or suspension.”
I was told the local (city/county) health board allowed this event. Shouldn’t that be the most important factor?
Rocky Mountain Rugby is currently investigating if the local health board and other officials approved this event and/or if the application to approve the event included all event details. From a cursory glance of Mesa County Public Health Order 2020-03, which is the current health order for the event location, the event appears to violate numerous provisions.
Specifically, as of September 12, the Mesa County Public Health website states, “As of September 8, 2020 Mesa County has been approved to enter the Protect our Neighbors phase of reopening. We’re working to draft a local public health order which will expand upon the current guidelines. Until that time the current public health order under Safer at Home should be followed.”
The order in question is located here and has statements such as:
“Large events and mass gatherings that involve more than 50 people, and have a likelihood of attracting visitors from outside the local community must remain closed”; and
“Avoid hosting activities that draw people from outside of Mesa County”; and
“Outdoor activities where more than one group is allowed must keep a reasonable and safe distance from other groups of no less than 20 feet”; and
“To the extent possible, participants in recreational and sports activities should be limited to those engaging in the particular activity. Spectators are highly discouraged, as are participants from communities outside of Mesa County.”
This event includes participants from areas outside Mesa County and thus has the potential to be a super-spreader event that impacts rugby communities in other locations, which would not only further delay those communities’ ability to return to competition but could also possibly put the sport into disrepute and adversely affect the game of rugby. For example, a youth hockey tournament in Connecticut spread COVID-19 among multiple Northeast states and the event is now being investigated by several state governments. Officials in Maryland are similarly seeing COVID-19 spread through sports activities.It is the opinion of Rocky Mountain Rugby that those who participated at this event risk spreading COVID-19 back to their home clubs in numerous other areas, possibly creating a chain throughout the rugby community. If you are a club official and believe a player participated at this tournament, it is your duty to keep them away from their club while they are suspended and/or Rocky Mountain Rugby investigates this event.
Individuals and groups must also realize the importance of adhering to the most restrictive guidelines when multiple guidelines are in place. It is extremely unlikely that any public health order in the United States specifically has rugby in mind. As such, the governing bodies that make up the rugby landscape are within their rights to assert additional guidelines for participation and activities surrounding the sport as they pertain to member clubs and individuals.
How does Rocky Mountain Rugby have jurisdiction to sanction organizations that aren’t its members?
All adult amateur rugby in Colorado and Wyoming remains the exclusive jurisdiction of Rocky Mountain Rugby; RMR's jurisdiction as a governing body also extends to some universities, clubs, and geographic areas in adjoining states. This jurisdiction is granted by USA Rugby and Rocky Mountain Rugby’s bylaws were approved as part of the GU-TU/LAU Restructuring process by authority granted by the USA Rugby Board of Directors.
The primary purpose of these sanctions is to restrict members ability to participating in rugby activities within Rocky Mountain Rugby and its clubs & competitions, as well as any other USA Rugby affiliated clubs & competitions by virtue of reciprocity between member organizations. Rocky Mountain Rugby holds no illusion that it can prohibit any person anywhere from playing rugby in the Rocky Mountain region; RMR does, however, reserve the right to say those that do so recklessly may not participate with member organizations or in sanctioned competitions while they are suspended.
Notably, the recklessness of this event will force Rocky Mountain Rugby to reevaluate all rugby matches and events held within the region. Please be prepared for additional communication on this matter.
Okay, so I’m suspended. What does that mean?
If you participated at the 2020 Peach Town Scrum Down Rugby Tournament, you are suspended indefinitely. An investigation into the actions of event organizers and participants will start immediately, and disciplinary misconduct hearings will follow shortly after. As with a red card, you are suspended until Rocky Mountain Rugby rules otherwise.
Rocky Mountain Rugby’s Disciplinary Committee is a body independent of the Rocky Mountain Rugby Board of Directors, as is a standard governance best practice. Those charged with misconduct will have the collective facts of their case tried and adjudicated. Your honest cooperation will assist your case but you are likely to face a continued suspension of length determined by the Disciplinary Committee. The length of suspension for individuals or groups of individuals may vary based on the severity of their actions and/or their cooperation in the investigation.
Suspended individuals shall NOT participate in any rugby activities while they are suspended, and we highly encourage the clubmates of those suspended to avoid off-field contact with participants at this event until they can definitively rule the suspended individual is not a carrier of COVID-19.
What if you can’t prove I was there?
If it comes to light that you participated at this event and do not take ownership of that fact, you are likely to face significantly more severe sanctions than if you cooperate with the process.
It would be unwise to not cooperate. The rugby community is much smaller and more tightly-knit than most think. We expect to know who participated and believe in the integrity of those within the game to admit to doing so. If you attempt to not admit to participating in this dangerous and unsanctioned activity, this failure to come forward will likely be held against you.
What are my next steps?
1. Collectively (if you are part of a group or club that traveled to this event) or individually, acknowledge your participation at the event. It would benefit you to admit participation prior to Rocky Mountain Rugby discovering otherwise. If you choose to not admit you participated and it is later found that you participated, it will likely be held against you.
2. Wait as Rocky Mountain Rugby concludes its investigation. After all, if you participated at this event you are currently suspended whether all parties know or acknowledge this or not. Do not engage in further rugby activities during this time, including training with any home club you may belong to.
3. Receive notice that the case is ready to be heard. If you believe you have unique circumstances that would require your case to be heard individually, you need to establish this in step 1 when you acknowledge your participation in the event. Otherwise, at the discretion of the investigation, your case will be heard as a group with those who participated in similar circumstances.
I didn’t go to this tournament, but I know someone who did. What should I do?
Please avoid contact with someone that you know attended this event until such time that participants can be reliably known to not carry COVID-19.
It is in the spirit of rugby’s values of integrity, discipline, and respect that you alert both your club and RMR officials if you know someone who participated at this event. We understand it is difficult to ‘tattle’ on others, but you, your friends, and/or their loved ones might get COVID-19 as a result of the actions of those who participated at this event. Please do not take this lightly. Participants from this event may be endangering the health and safety of everyone around them and are a liability to your club and the rugby community as a whole.
I heard they’re playing rugby in ___. Why isn’t this happening there?
Rocky Mountain Rugby can only control what’s happening in its area of jurisdiction but RMR hopes that all governing bodies are taking health and safety guidelines as seriously as RMR is. We all love rugby and want to get back on the pitch as soon as possible, but participation in non-approved events may only lengthen the time we’re ultimately away from meaningful competition - as well as potentially harm our friends, teammates, and loved ones within and around the community.
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