The Chairmen of the Premier Rugby clubs had their scheduled meeting on Thursday, ahead of the kick off of the new 2009/10 season which begins tonight (Friday 4th September).
The negative events and publicity during the summer took attention away from another successful season of record attendances in 2008/9.
At their pre-season meeting, the Chairmen reaffirmed their collective determination to take immediate measures to avoid any repetition of these types of issues and to continue the successful growth of the professional game to which they have contributed so much over the last 15 years.
The Club Chairmen agreed a series of immediate actions for the new season;
• A voluntary code on blood injuries which provides the opposition doctor with the option to verify each blood injury
• Endorsement of the new Guinness Premiership regulations which will see a team reduced to 14 players if it is responsible for going to Uncontested Scrums. Premier Rugby has been pushing for the inclusion of these in other competitions and the Chairmen welcomed yesterday's European Rugby Cup (ERC) confirmation that these will also be adopted for this season's European competitions. Premier Rugby will continue to seek their inclusion in the Anglo Welsh Cup
• An education and awareness programme on illicit drugs and alcohol which will be mandatory for all players and rugby staff
• Continued work with the Professional Rugby Players' Association (PRA) and the RFU on finalising the out of competition testing and sanctioning protocols which should be established by the end of this year
• Stronger oversight of the numbers in the pitch side Technical Zones (with excessive numbers in that area having been highlighted as possibly exacerbating substitution controversies) and automatic fines for breach
The Premier Rugby Code of Conduct has also been reviewed and strengthened.
The Chairmen acknowledged and welcomed the invitations to Andrew Coppel and Cecil Duckworth to join the RFU Task Group.
Peter Tom, Chairman of Premier Rugby, said; "We have moved quickly to put in place measures that will immediately address issues that have arisen over the summer, as well as other areas of potential controversy and risk.
"The season gets underway tomorrow with over 60,000 expected at the London Double Header and a possible record total attendance for an opening weekend. That is on the back of many clubs reporting record season ticket sales, so we are now all looking forward to a strong season of entertaining rugby for our supporters and partners".
Mark McCafferty, Chief Executive, added; "We have had to deal with many off-field issues this summer and it is vital to learn lessons for the future.
"Equally, the Race to Twickenham is about to start with the colour, noise and passion those matches bring. We start with two massive matches in successive weeks, at Twickenham and Wembley Stadium, followed by start of the new Anglo Welsh Cup and the excitement of European competition. It all points to another enthralling and competitive season of club rugby".