Key Tournament Rules
The following are the key rules for the 2020/21 Heineken Champions Cup:
1. LAWS OF THE GAME
The tournament will be played in accordance with World Rugby’s Laws of the Game of Rugby Union (as amended from time to time), as varied or supplemented by EPCR.
2. NEW TOURNAMENT FORMAT
2.1 For the pool stage, the clubs are divided into two pools of 12. Each club will play four matches during the pool stage, two at home and two away.
NB Two pool stage rounds were completed due to the impact of COVID-19 and the temporary suspension of the tournaments
2.2 Four points for a win, two points for a draw. A bonus point will be awarded to a club scoring four or more tries and to a club losing by seven points or fewer.
If clubs are equal on match points, their ranking will be determined as follows:
(i) the best aggregate points difference from the pool stage; or
(ii) if equal, the number of tries scored in the pool stage; or
(iii) if equal, the club with the fewest number of players suspended for disciplinary incidents in the pool stage; or
(iv) if equal, by drawing lots.
KNOCKOUT STAGE DRAWS
Round of 16
2.3 Under a revised format, draws will take place to decide the matches in a Round of 16 as well as for the quarter-finals and semi-finals with all rounds played over one match.
The eight highest-ranked clubs in Pool A and the eight highest-ranked clubs in Pool B qualify for the Round of 16.
Clubs from the same league cannot be drawn against one another in the Round of 16, however, clubs from either pool can be drawn against one another.
Clubs which have won both pool stage matches on the pitch – ie. where results were not impacted by COVID-19 – will play at home in the Round of 16.
2.4 The draw for the four quarter-final matches is ‘open’ and clubs from the same league can be drawn against one another.
2.5 The semi-final matches, which will be decided by a draw, will be staged at venues designated by EPCR.
2.6 The 2021 final will be played in Marseille.
NB In the event of drawn matches at the end of normal time during the knockout stage, extra-time will be played.If the scores remain tied at the end of extra time, the winner will be determined as follows:
(a) the club that has scored the most tries in the match (including extra time) or
(b) if equal, by a place kick competition.
3. ELIGIBILITY OF PLAYERS
3.1 Each club must nominate a squad, however, there is no limit on the number of players nominated at first registration of the season. A minimum of 10 of the players nominated by the club must be capable of playing in front row forward positions. The First Registration deadline is midday (GMT) on Thursday 19 November 2020 and all players must be fully and properly registered with their club and Union.
3.2 A club must nominate a squad of between 19 and 23 players for each match.
3.3 A minimum of six front row players must be included in each match day squad such that on the first occasion that a replacement is required in each position, a replacement can be made. Where uncontested scrums are ordered due to the departure of a front row player and there is no suitable replacement, the player whose departure caused the uncontested scrums may not be replaced (i.e. the club will be required to play with 14 players).
3.4 Each club may register up to five Additional Players during the pool stage but none during the knockout stage, each to replace a player previously registered. A minimum of three Additional Players must be front row players, one Additional Player can be from any position and one Additional Player must be a medical replacement. Players must have a three-month contract with the club and must not have played for another club in the same tournament. Additional Player registrations must be submitted by 12 noon (GMT) on the Wednesday before the match. De-registered players may be re-registered (in place of the relevant Additional Players) during the pool stage.
3.5 For Second Registration, clubs can add up to three players to supplement their squads and one of the players must be a front row player. The deadline for Second Registration is midday (GMT) on 25 March 2021.
3.6 Each club is permitted an unlimited number of ‘non-European players’ in each match day squad for the 2020/21 season.
4. CLUB COLOURS
4.1 For pool matches and quarter-finals, if a club fails to wear the strip designated by EPCR and there is a colour clash, that club must change strip. For the semi-finals and final, in the event of a colour clash, the club to change strip will be at EPCR’s discretion.
5. ANTI-DOPING PROGRAMME
5.1 Players will be subject to doping control as set out in EPCR’s Anti-Doping Programme, which is based on and subject to Regulation 21 (Anti-Doping) of World Rugby’s Regulations.
6.1 Where a match is abandoned after 60 minutes or more, the result will stand.
6.2 Where a match is abandoned after fewer than 60 minutes, (a) if both clubs and the EPCR Board agree, the result will stand, or (b) the match will be replayed in full no earlier than 48 hours after kick-off of the abandoned match (unless both clubs and EPCR agree otherwise), with both clubs entitled to select new match day squads.
(i) Red Cards
a) The case of any player sent off in a Heineken Champions Cup match shall be adjudicated by an independent Disciplinary Committee as soon as is practicable.
b) Until the hearing the player is ineligible to play in any tournament.
(ii) Citing Commissioners
a) Citing Commissioners are appointed by EPCR for all Heineken Champions Cup matches and shall be entitled to cite a player for any act or acts of Foul Play that in the Citing Commissioner’s opinion warranted a red card.
b) For such matches, clubs will not have the power to cite a player but may refer incidents to the Citing Commissioner within 26 hours of the start of the match.
c) The Citing Commissioner will have 50 hours from the start of the match to make a citing. In certain circumstances this deadline can be extended.
d) The EPCR Disciplinary Officer may forward the submitted citing to a Citing Officer to determine whether there are sufficient grounds for the citing to progress.
e) The Disciplinary Officer will then bring a charge against the cited player.
(iii) Disciplinary Hearings
a) The independent Disciplinary Committee or independent Judicial Officer is chosen by the chairman of the independent Disciplinary Panel, Mike Hamlin.
b) EPCR’s Disciplinary Officer presents the case against a player, club representative or club.
c) If a citing complaint against a player is upheld, the independent Disciplinary Committee will be required to consider the appropriate sanction. Under World Rugby’s sanctioning regime, which EPCR is obliged to follow, the Committee will first assess the seriousness of the player’s actions and determine which of the three stipulated entry points (lower end, mid range and top end) is the most appropriate.
d) The Disciplinary Committee will determine the appropriate entry point based on an assessment of a number of particular characteristics of the player’s actions, including whether or not they were intentional, whether or not they caused any injuries and whether or not they had any effect on the relevant match.
e) After deciding the entry point, the Disciplinary Committee will then consider whether the suspension should be increased from the entry point to take account of certain specified aggravating factors, such as a poor disciplinary record or the need for deterrence, and/or decreased from the entry point to take account of certain specified mitigating actions, such as a guilty plea, a good disciplinary record, the player’s conduct at the hearing and expressions of remorse.
f) A suspension is a blanket ban from playing rugby union anywhere in the world. Players are suspended on the basis that a one-week period of suspension would ordinarily result in a player missing one match. Suspensions take into account periods of inactivity (such as the close season), periods when a player is injured or otherwise not fit to play, and when a player is not available or not expected to play. Suspensions should also take into account any out-of-season matches which are not considered to be meaningful, or which are not close enough to the season to be a determining factor in a player’s future selection.
g) Both parties to the hearing (EPCR and the player) have the right to appeal decisions of the Disciplinary Committee. Appeals must be lodged within three (3) working days of receiving the full written decision of the Committee.
h) The full written decision of the Disciplinary Committee will be available on epcrugby.com when the disciplinary process is complete
i) For World Rugby’s Sanctions for Foul Play, found at Appendix 1 to World Rugby Regulation 17, visit www.world.rugby/handbook/regulations/reg-17/appendix-1?lang=en
(iv) Citing Commissioner Warnings
a) EPCR-appointed Citing Commissioners are entitled to issue a Warning to any player who has, in his/her opinion, committed an act(s) of Foul Play that (in the words of World Rugby) “falls just short” of warranting that the player be shown a red card (where such act(s) did not result in a yellow card or a red card). A Citing Commissioner is not limited in the number of Warnings he/she may issue to a player in respect of a match.
b) The Citing Commissioner will have 50 hours from the start of the match to issue a Warning. In certain circumstances this deadline can be extended.
c) If a player considers that a Citing Commissioner Warning was wrongly issued to him, he can give written notice to that effect within 48 hours of the receipt of the Warning.
d) Players who accumulate three or more Citing Commissioner Warnings or who are issued with three yellow cards for Foul Play offences, or a combination of both, will be required to attend a Disciplinary Hearing.
e) World Rugby introduced Citing Commissioner Warnings in 2014 as a mandatory provision where Citing Commissioners are present at matches.
(v) Disciplinary Hearing Decisions
All hearing decisions of independent Disciplinary Committees and independent Judicial Officers are available at www.epcrugby.com/european-professional-club-rugby/discipline-news/hearing-decisions/
8. MEDIA REGULATION – TEAM ANNOUNCEMENTS
8.1 Each club must announce its match squad by 12 noon (GMT) on the Thursday before a Friday match and by 12 noon (GMT) on the Friday before a weekend match. The match squad announced must not differ from the squad that plays save in exceptional circumstances. Breaches of the match squad regulations may result in fines being imposed by the Board of EPCR.