WARRINGTON Wolves chairman Stuart Middleton has expressed his “profound astonishment” at the decision to hand Paul Vaughan a four-match ban.

In an open letter, Middleton called the Grade E unacceptable contact charge – handed to the prop after he was shown to pull St Helens forward Sione Mata’utia off the floor in the closing stages of The Wire’s 18-6 defeat in Round 26 – was “fundamentally flawed” and has called for changes in the way the RFL’s Match Review Panel works.

The Grade E charge meant Vaughan’s case went straight to the Operational Rules Tribunal, who found him guilty and issued the four-match ban that ends his 2023 season.

The Wire appealed the verdict yesterday but that was dismissed yesterday, meaning the suspension stands.

Here is the open letter written by Mr Middleton in full…

I must express my profound astonishment that Paul Vaughan was charged with a Grade E offence, subsequently found guilty and given a four-match ban.

I thought common sense would prevail but on appeal, the decision was upheld.

Sione Mata'utia put in writing that he was not injured and deliberately acted in the manner he did with a slow play-the-ball because there were only 30 seconds left on the clock. The officials did not see any foul play, the player did not receive any attention from the physio. It was picked up from the recording sometime later.

The judiciary panel knew this information but cited that "the player could have been injured" and that it was not up to Vaughan to adjudge if the player is injured or not.

It is my opinion that the charge is fundamentally flawed and the RFL disciplinary panel have made an error of judgment on this occasion.

If they have strictly followed the rules, the rules need changing – what happened to discretion?

I believe this incident used to carry a grade A to E charge, it was then changed to a grade E.

Do we have to stop players grabbing their teammates off from a tackle as this happens all the time? How long will it be before we are a non-contact sport?

I fully understand and agree with the need to protect players from injury and most certainly head knocks.

However, are we going too far with the disciplinary decisions? Every week several players are cited, charged and either fined heavily or banned.

As a fan myself, I can understand the frustration of fans from all clubs who are becoming disillusioned with the game due this micro-scrutiny.

Every club has suffered and the governing body needs to be careful it doesn't drive them away with their rulings.

I have put a substantial amount of money in the sport via the club each year – I think I'm justified in feeling angst over the situation.

For the good of the game, we need to entertain, we need competitive and hard-fought matches, we need to have our best players on the pitch as much as we can instead of them sat in the stands serving bans.

Super League is currently at its lowest value in 20 years. Every Super League club in the UK is facing financial challenges and it is unhelpful having to pay players and not have them on the pitch and be competitive.

During the close season, it is necessary that collectively, all clubs enter honest and constructive dialogue with the RFL's decision-makers to review the criteria and remit of the disciplinary panel, it's laws, procedures and grading.

I know that all parties acknowledge the fact that some things need tweaking and others need to change. We will certainly be engaging in said conversations.