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Rules of the Hertfordshire/Middlesex Rugby Merit Tables

Hertfordshire/Middlesex Rugby Merit Tables

Rules and Regulations

Issue 17 – October 2019


1.         Name

The Merit Tables shall be known as the Hertfordshire/Middlesex Merit Tables 

2.         Aims

These Merit Tables have been inaugurated with the following objectives: -

a)         To encourage and facilitate a greater number of regular games for players of the participating clubs, who are not involved in the ‘RFU League’ structure.

b)         To encourage continued camaraderie between clubs and players at the local level.

c)         To provide a competitive edge to matches

d)        To provide an opportunity for younger players for a competitive involvement prior to introduction into league rugby.

e)         To bring new players into the game.

f)       To provide a proving ground for new clubs, which wish to develop their structure and processes, prior to applying for entry into the RFU League Structure.

3.         Administration

The merit tables shall be supervised by Hertfordshire Rugby Football Union (“supervising constituent body”), who shall appoint Organisers to administer the merit tables.

The Organisers shall administer the merit tables and make such decisions, as deemed appropriate, to run an efficient and fair competition. The Organisers shall have the power to co-opt additional members for specific purposes. Decisions of the Organisers are subject to review under the appeals procedure (See Section 11).

The Organisers shall have the power to alter or amend these rules and regulations, when necessary, but will advise and seek comment from all participating clubs of changes, if appropriate.

The merit tables may consist of as many divisions that are necessary to cater for the teams playing in the Competition, as agreed by the Organisers.

Each club eligible to join the competition must appoint at least one ‘representative’ to act as their liaison officer. To ease and speed communications, the liaison officer will have direct access to e-mail.  This method will ease the work load of the Organisers and ensure that effective communication exists between all clubs and the Organisers.

It is also important that the Liaison Officers act as the information link within their own clubs so that their captains and managers of the participating teams are kept up-to-date with the latest changes to the rules, match dates and table structures etc. They should also be the key administrator to seek advice on any Merit Table issues arising within their clubs.

4.         Participation

To participate in any of the merit tables, clubs must be members of the Rugby Football Union (“eligible clubs”).

Eligible clubs shall seek to be invited to participate in the merit table by the Organisers. Participation shall be by invitation only from the Organisers.

Only clubs affiliated to the Buckinghamshire, East Midlands, Essex, Hertfordshire or Middlesex County Unions and within “the Hertfordshire/North Middlesex Area” shall be invited to enter the competition, unless a special request is received from a team that would benefit the competition. This area is generally defined as within 20 miles of the A1/M1/A505 area, such that no side should have to travel more than 45 minutes to fulfil a fixture

Clubs may not have more than one side in any division of the merit tables.

5.         Matches

All matches in the competition shall be played under the Laws of the Rugby Football Union and shall comply with the appropriate byelaws, resolutions and regulations of the RFU.

The Organisers shall draw up the fixture schedule for the season, which will normally be based upon each merit table consisting of up to ten teams, playing on a ‘home and away’ basis, with most games being played on designated RFU League or Cup Saturdays.

Participating clubs may mutually rearrange the fixture venues, where pitch availabilities clash or special events have been planned prior to issue of the fixtures. Any such changes must be notified to the Organisers by 31st August each season.  Where a team joins the Competition after the start of the season or replaces an existing side, they will be allowed one month to mutually rearrange games where there is lack of pitch availability etc. Any request to re-arrange fixtures after 1st September must be referred to the Organisers in the first instance, who will then consider the reasons for the request and advise the clubs concerned of their decision. A request to re-arrange a game received within one week of the match due to be played is unlikely to be receive approval unless special circumstance arise (See Rule 8).  

Special Rules for 2019-2020 Regarding the Mount RFC.

All teams in Merit Table 3 are required to play one fixture with and at The Mount RFC. One of the dates from the fixture schedule must be mutually agreed between the club and The Mount and the Organisers informed of the decision. Any club failing to play one agreed game with the Mount in the season will be deducted two points, except when the game is forfeited by The Mount.

In the event of a dispute between clubs as to when or where a game should be played, the game shall be played on the date originally specified by the Organisers, or any other reasonable date that the Organisers deem suitable.

The home sides shall be responsible for organising the referees and paying expenses. Each home side shall use its best endeavours to secure the services of a referee from the Buckinghamshire Society, Essex Society, Hertfordshire Society London Society, or the East Midlands Society, or their local referees’ organisation; depending upon which society they are in membership.

In the event of the appropriate society being unable to appoint a referee, the home side shall be responsible for providing a competent referee. Each team should provide a touch judge.

The home side shall be responsible for informing the referee of the rules and regulations of the competition which effect playing, especially those referring to uncontested scrums, team numbers, replacements and “rolling substitutes. A copy of the latest edition of the “HMMT Quick Rules” should be made available in all participating clubs.

If in the opinion of the referee there is a colour clash, the home side shall change their shirts. Clubs should ensure that if a colour clash is likely to occur between clubs, arrangements for the home team to change are made when the match is confirmed. 

All Merit Table and Knock-Out Competition matches shall be played between 1st September and 30th April each season and shall be played on Saturday afternoons unless mutually agreed between the participating clubs concerned or as directed by the Organisers. Playing under floodlights on other days of the week is acceptable, where mutually agreed between clubs and with the organisers agreement.  The last date for playing Merit Table matches each season shall be advised by the Organisers so that games are not rescheduled on dates allocated to the Knock-Out Competition.  In the 2019-20 Season, all Merit Table games must be completed by 28th March 2020

If any game is not to be played at the home ground of a club in membership of their County RFU then the Organisers’ permission must be obtained, which shall not be withheld unless it is believed that the choice of venue unreasonably disadvantages the away side.

All other match arrangements shall be similar to those normally made for club fixtures.

6.         Players 

Only bona-fide playing members of participating clubs may play in competition matches and will be the players normally selected to represent that team. Club sides should be selected on an ability basis, such that each side is expected to be at a playing level above the team below. However, it is acceptable for players who would normally play in a senior side but are returning from injury, illness, or significant absence to progress through the lower sides. The protocol for returning after concussion must be adhered to.

Sides that only include ‘Vet’ players are not permitted in the competition, as this restricts the development of younger players moving through the sides and can create playing level anomalies.  

There will be a maximum number of three replacements allowed per team in Tables 1 to 3 inclusively.  In Tables 4 and 5, a maximum of five replacements will be allowed, providing that the opposing team has a minimum of 15 players.

The experimental law regarding “Rolling Substitutes” will be again be implemented in the Hertfordshire Middlesex Merit Tables this season in all Tables, providing both sides can commence the match with 15 players and three replacements in Tables 1, 2 and 3. In Tables 4 and 5, Rolling Substitutes can be played where both teams have 15 players plus 3,4 or 5 replacements.

The Merit Tables are now in line with many other National Merit Tables such that both sides must start each match with an equal number of players.

Where a team arrives with less than 15 players, then captains/managers are required to balance the numbers in the sides by loaning players to the side with less than 15 players. Replacements remain at a maximum of three.  Teams should be evened up to the maximum number permissible. They must not be reduced to the level of the team with player shortages.  

If either side has less than three replacements (Tables 1 to 5 inclusive) normal playing laws apply, and “Rolling Substitutes” will not be played.

Any side failing to balance out sides to equal numbers will be subject to a penalty of up to two points and loss of the game.

A pattern of sides being on the end of very heavy defeats is counter-productive to enjoyable social rugby with the subsequent loss to the game of new and developing players. Therefore in all tables once a side achieves a score of 60 points ahead of their opponents, (i.e. 67-6) the referee will give the captain of the losing side the option of ending the game or continuing to the end of normal time.  

In addition, the Organisers, will review the performance of all sides in the Tables at the mid point of the season and if there are any serious discrepancies which can be balanced out by movement of teams between Tables, this will take place. Those teams moving tables would take their first half results to their new table.  

Should any team have less than ten players before the game, then the match will be awarded to their opponents, unless exceptional circumstances have arisen, which should be referred to the organisers. However every effort should be made on behalf of all the players and referee to play a friendly match. If a friendly game subsequently takes place, then the side that had less than ten players will be awarded three Merit Table points.

Teams must not be strengthened by players selected to play in senior sides, where their games have been cancelled or are not playing for some similar reason. Clubs will be penalised for failing to comply with this rule.  

When a club has more than one team participating in the competition, should a cancellation occur due to lack of players, the cancellation should normally commence with the lowest side. When this situation is arising, clubs should seek advice from the Organisers as early as possible in the week of the planned matches. Organisers may take into consideration the differences in playing levels between the club’s teams within the Competition. Should this process not occur, then the Organisers may penalise the club concerned by deducting two points from each side that played, where it is considered teams gained an unfair advantage. 

There is no requirement for front row replacements. However in order to comply with the Laws of the Game, if teams do elect to have up to three replacements they must have at least four players in their team capable of playing in the front row. In the event of uncontested scrums for all or part of the game the result will stand as though contested scrums had taken place throughout.

Teams are expected to have a front row available for games and only on exceptional occasions should matches commence with ‘uncontested scrums’.  Any side that is unable to commence more than two games without a front row will be penalised by the loss of two points on each further occasion.  Clubs must alert their opponents as soon as they are aware, or by Thursday at the latest, that they will be unable to field a full front row, so that the opportunity to offer a replacement player is given.

Both the home and away sides are required to advise the Organisers whenever a side commences a match with ‘uncontested scrums’ due to a shortage of front row players. Additionally, the clubs involved must also advise if a game moved to ‘uncontested scrums’ during the course of a game and the approximate time of this change.

If a side shows a pattern of moving to ‘uncontested scrums’, the Organisers will review the occurrences with the club and deduct points if it was considered to be unfair play.

7.         Promotion and Relegation

Where the merit table has more than one division, the bottom two sides of the higher division may be relegated to the lower division at the conclusion of the season and the top two sides of the lower division promoted, except where two divisions feed one table, then one side may be promoted or relegated from/to each division. The above is also subject to new sides joining or sides leaving the competition, in which case the Organisers may need to restructure the tables to achieve an equal playing level in each table. 

Promotion is not mandatory and a club may formally request that their team remains in the same table. In this case the Organisers will determine whether or not to promote a team, based upon the arguments given and the relativity of the playing strengths of the other teams. Clubs cannot be promoted or relegated where this would place two sides from the same club in one merit table (Rule 4). Where teams havedisplayed that their playing ability is massively out of line with the other teams in their table, the Organisers may promote or demote a side more than one table at the end of the season. There will generally be discussion with the club prior to this action. 

8.         Determination of Merit Table Points and Winners  

Five points shall be awarded for a win, four points for a draw and three points for a loss. Points awarded shall determine the position of sides within the merit tables. However, if points awarded are equal then the side having the greater “points difference” shall take the higher position.

If the sides still cannot be separated then the side having scored the most points in the competition shall take the higher position.

If this method still fails to determine the winner of a merit table at the end of the season, then the side scoring the most points in the matches between the tied clubs shall be declared the winner.

In the event of any club failing to fulfil a game, other than for a postponement due to the pitch being unusable or some other acceptable reason, they shall forfeit the game. The non-offending side shall be deemed to have won the game 25-0 and shall be awarded 5 points. The offending side will receive no points.

Teams cancelling matches should make their decision and advise their opposition by Thursday evening at the latest. Early advice should be the ‘norm’. Where late cancellation occurs, without good reason, the Organisers can penalise the team concerned by deducting points. 

If a side fails to honour five or more fixtures then the Organisers may exclude that side from the competition. In the case of a side being excluded or withdrawing from a merit table all their results will be expunged, unless a new side is willing to join the table and take over the record of the excluded or withdrawing side.

If a game is not played due to adverse weather conditions, or the weather causes the game to be abandoned with less than fifty minutes having been played, the game shall be deemed to have been drawn 0:0.  Providing the Organisers is advised within three days of the cancellation that both clubs wish to replay and it can be arranged to be played before the end date for Merit Table matches, as advised by the Organisers, then approval will normally be given. If teams mutually fail to re-arrange any postponed games by the end of the season, then it will be recorded as a void game and no points awarded, unless the Organisers consider that one side had unreasonably failed to arrange a game

If the referee abandons a game, except for disciplinary reasons, before fifty minutes of play has expired, then the game shall be void and deemed to have been drawn 0-0. Otherwise the result shall stand as though the game had been completed normally. Where the referee stops a game for disciplinary reasons, the game will be awarded to the non offending side.

The match shall be postponed if either Captain regards the pitch as unplayable. The referee’s opinion may be sought, but it is the decision of the Captains whether to play the game or not.

In the event of the scores being equal at the end of normal time the game shall be deemed a draw. Extra-time is only played in the Knock-Out Competition.

9.         Notification of Results

Both teams shall be responsible for (a) confirming the score with the referee and (b) informing the Organisers, by e-mail or text of the result and score of their match or cancellation of the game, no later than 12 noon on the Sunday after the match. Information immediately after the game has been played is preferred, once the score/result has been confirmed with the referee.

Result to be sent to Bob Moore:-

  Email -  [email protected]    

            Text -   07875 625022

On the second and each subsequent occasion that a club fails to notify the Organisers of the match result or the postponement of the match before the deadline, the Organisers may deduct one point from their points awarded total.

10.       Knock-out Competition

A Knock-out Competition will take place for clubs within each Merit Table on dates determined by the Organisers and advised at the start of the season. The finals are generally expected to take place during late April, except where a clash with Easter Saturday occurs.  There will also be a Plate Competition for those clubs eliminated in the preliminary or first round of the tournament, such that every team is guaranteed at least two matches.

Only players who have played in the Merit Table Competition are eligible to play in the Knock-out Competition, unless special dispensation is requested from the Organisers and permission given.  Where a club has more than one team in the Competition, players may not play for more than one team. In all games prior to the finals, the rules regarding the number of players, replacements and “rolling substitutes” will be the same as merit table games. (See Section 6 – Players)

In the Finals of both the Main and Plate Competitions only, teams should have five replacements and must have five players in their team capable of playing in the front row such that teams are able to replace any position in the front row on the first occasion that replacements are required. “Rolling substitutes” will be permitted in all finals of the Plate and Main Competitions.

Each team is required to complete a form detailing the names of all their players for each match in the Competition, which is to be handed to the referee prior to the game. Forms will be e-mailed to clubs by the organiser or downloaded from the website.  The result, plus details of scores listed, where extra time needed to be played, will be recorded by the referee and signed by the captains and the referee.  Each captain will be responsible for posting or emailing their form to the Organisers, to arrive by the following Wednesday.  

The complete draw for each of the competitions will take place at an appropriate meeting of the Organising Committee. 

The home team will be the first drawn, but should their ground not be available on the prescribed day of the match, and it is not possible to reschedule the game on a Saturday before the next round, then the game will be played at the opponents ground. Should a point be reached where a game has not been played due to either bad weather and/or pitch conditions prior to the finals and no other option to play is available, a draw will take place under the auspices of the Hertfordshire Competitions Committee, to determine which side goes through to the next round.

After the first or preliminary rounds of the Competition, prior to the finals, the Organisers will review the venues where matches are due to be played such that if a team that has already played at home is again drawn at home to meet a side that has only played away, then the venue will be reversed.  Where both sides played away or both have played at home in the previous round, there will be no change in venue. (The reason for this variation is to ensure all Clubs have the opportunity to maximise revenue from the Competition)

Where possible, the finals will be played on a neutral ground advised by the Organisers.

In the preliminary, first and semi-final rounds of the competition, if the scores are equal at the end of normal time the teams will change ends and a further twenty minutes shall be played with the teams changing ends after ten minutes. In the event of the scores still being tied then the club having scored the most tries shall be deemed to be the winner. If this does not separate the sides then the club having scored the most goals from tries shall be deemed to be the winner. In the event that this does not separate the sides then the away side will go through.

In the finals of the Competition, if the scores are equal at the end of normal time the teams will change ends and a further twenty minutes shall be played with the teams changing ends after ten minutes. If the scores are still level at the end of extra time the teams will change ends and ‘golden points’ will be played. Play will continue with the sides changing ends every ten minutes.  The team that scores first during the ‘golden points’ phase will be deemed the winner of their final.

Any side that forfeits a game in the K.O. Competition is automatically eliminated from the remainder of that season’s competition. In the following season forfeiting sides will be placed in the Preliminary Round, if appropriate to their table.   

11.       Appeals Procedure

Any appeal under these rules and regulations must be made, in the first instance, in writing by either letter or email to the Organisers. If the appeal concerns a particular match then the appeal must be made not more than seven days after the match has been played.

Once the Organisers have reached their decision a further appeal can be made to the Appeal Committee whose decision shall be final and binding.

If the appeal directly concerns the Organisers then the appeal must be made directly to the Competitions Sub Committee of the Hertfordshire Rugby Football Union. (‘Appeal Committee‘)

An appeal can be made to the Appeal Committee only if it is based on new evidence or the decision of the Organisers is contrary to the rules and regulations of the Hertfordshire Rugby Football Union or the Rugby Football Union or the ‘Laws of the Game’.

All appeals will be based on written submissions. There will be no personal hearings. 




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