BRADFORD & Bingley have been clobbered by the Rugby Football Union for multiple breaches of fielding under-age players last season.

In four matches towards the end of a miserable North One East campaign for the Bees, in which they lost all 26 matches, they played 17-year-olds on eight occasions without receiving the relevant RFU permission (as per regulation 15.6).

Now the club, which has admitted the charges, will start the 2022-23 season with a 10-point deduction in North One East (there was no relegation last season due to Covid).

They also have a suspended relegation hanging over them if there are more breaches of playing under-age players before the start of the 2023-24 campaign.

In addition, two individuals at Bradford & Bingley who have been deemed to be most culpable, have been hit by bans.

Head coach Hugh Gumbs, who has since left the club, has been suspended from rugby coaching for six months, a ban which runs out on November 25.

Meanwhile, chair of rugby - a position that is now defunct - Chris Hemsley has been banned from signing any Playing Adult Rugby Club Approval Form or Playing Adult Rugby Player Approval Form.

Bradford & Bingley did not name any of the under-age players on the first two match cards in which breaches occurred, claiming that the team changes had occurred after selection the previous Thursday.

About the only good news for the Bees, who felt that the under-age players were equipped for senior rugby, is that they do not have to pay the costs of the hearing, which was by video on May 27 as it was felt that their club finances would be tighter than normal due to Covid.

One 17-year-old (who was seven months young) played in all of the four matches in which breaches occurred, another in three of the four (at five months young) and a third in just one of the four (at eight months young).

None of the players concerned have been named and none were injured in those games.

The four matches in which Bradford & Bingley fielded under-age players were Cleckheaton away (March 5, two players), Moortown home (March 12, one player), Driffield away (March 26, three players) and Heath home (April 2, two players).

The RFU called the repeated breaches “a disappointing picture”.

Meanwhile, Andy Watts, of the Bees, did submit Club Approval forms for the two players on March 6 after the match the day before, but no Player Approval Forms were submitted for any of the three players until April 7.

The Yorkshire Constituent Body (YCB), which gave approval on April 8, were never contacted to sign the forms themselves, which they should have been.

The RFU said that the Bees were guilty of “wilful blindness” and the RFU also concluded that the club was “not concerned about breaching the regulations” and gave “less than straightforward answers”.

The Bees claim that they misunderstood that YCB consent needed to be given, something which has only happened since 2019.

However, the RFU feel that Gumbs, as a former safeguarding officer for the Yorkshire CB, should have known about these necessities, calling his errors “somewhat concerning”, while they found some of Hemsley’s answers to be “not transparent”.

Now only Bradford & Bingley’s head coach is allowed to sign any Playing Adult Rugby Player Approval Form, while the club must also undergo a safeguarding audit, organised by Yorkshire CB.

They also must hold a training session for the club’s under-17s and under-18s coaches before December 31 to address and explain the requirements of playing under-age players in adult rugby.

Also, the club must identify one individual before the date for the first league match next season who is responsible for seeking approval from the Yorkshire CB to play under-18s in adult rugby.

The RFU disciplinary panel was Matthew Weaver QC (chairman), Rebecca Harris and Richard Mann, while Rebecca Morgan acted as secretary.

Bradford & Bingley were represented by Andy Watts, Chris Hemsley, Hugh Gumbs, Andy Smith and Benji Pickin, while Robert Cumming (Counsel) and David Barnes represented the RFU.