The RFL has introduced a ground-breaking drugs use policy which will come into effect during the 2014 First Utility Super League season.
The RFL Social and Non-Prescribed Prescription Drug Policy 2014 is a new initiative which aims to prevent players suffering and causing personal and professional harm from the misuse of illegal or non-prescribed substances.
An integrated approach will be used to initiate the policy, with Super League players receiving an education workshop, being subject to a new testing programme and given help, including rehabilitation and counselling.
“This is a ground-breaking initiative that has been in the preparatory stages for a while now,” said RFL Operations Director Emma Rosewarne. “The policy will go live this season as we believe that it will make a real difference to player welfare in Rugby League.
“The original draft of the policy was drawn up in full as far back as last autumn, and after a lengthy process of consultation we are delighted that we are at a stage where we can look forward to significant progress in player welfare.
“It is important to note that we are not trying to catch anybody out with this policy – the drive behind the initiative comes from a player welfare point of view.
“It is our job to help our players in every way possible and this, from a social and non-prescribed prescription drug perspective, is the best way to go about giving support to our professional players.”
A draft version of the policy was created last summer with consultation with the Super League Players’ Association, League13, starting last September.
The policy was officially passed at the end of January, with a series of educational seminars in association with Sporting Chance Clinic and club player welfare managers now being held across the country with all Super League clubs.
The testing part of the policy will not come into force until a Super League club has attended a seminar explaining how the new policy will work, and advise players how to get help with prescription and social drug issues.
Under the new policy, the club’s entire first team will be tested during the season to ensure that everybody within the first team squad, and every first team player in the top flight, is treated on even grounds.
“This initiative is not only a first in Rugby League in this country but, with regard to the non-prescribed prescription drug aspect of the policy, I believe it is the first in all sports in England,” said Rosewarne.
“This policy is designed to help players who might have an issue with or a dependency on prescription and social drugs. Players need to know that they will not be treated as villains –they will be helped and given the best-possible care.
“We have been working closely for a number of years with the Sporting Chance Clinic, who do an excellent job of supporting professional and former professional sportspeople, and I am sure this relationship will continue to grow from strength to strength.
“By educating our players and our clubs, we can help protect our professionals of the present and the future, and look to continue improving player welfare in Rugby League.”