At the recent Millennium Series Bitburg event a long time pro player, H.D., was involved in an altercation with a ref that resulted in H.D. punching the ref. Bits and pieces of the details can be found at PBN. While I am aware the name of the individual has been made public I'll be sticking with his initials. The point is that from my perspective the who isn't important. I have no intention of arguing the specific details or the merits of the ban given what transpired. My interest is twofold; documented rules that make enforcement transparent and consistent and a curiosity regarding league standards of conduct with respect to their representatives.
Okay, here's where it gets really tedious. Yep, we're delving into what passes for the MS rules. Sorry but it's necessary. All I can find is the rule book (2006) plus changes that are available on the MS website. In conjunction with those the MS also lists player suspensions for the current season. None of the changes listed includes any relevant to this situation documentation. Consequently I am relying on the only documentation I could find.
Throughout the rule book the phrase that is used for this situation is physical contact. See Penalties and Additional Penalties. Under section 39 [Suspensions, Ejections, DQs & Fines] it goes so far as to identify "intentional physical contact that could be construed to be assault & battery" in subsection 39.04 which results in an immediate ejection from the event and a one event suspension. The only place the language changes is in section 40 [Decorum] subsection 40.02 that stipulates up to a one year suspension can be handed out for a physical altercation. Those are the two areas that speak most directly to the H.D. situation. Within the commonly available rule book there is no banning penalty option--of any duration--unless you use ban for suspension interchangeably. Nor even a multiple event suspension option as 39.06 makes clear that continuing unsportsmanlike conduct after an ejection and/or suspension is to be handled with a fine. The only possibility of multi-event suspensions within the rules is covered in 39.05 that stipulates that should a player be suspended a second time in the same season [player] "will be banned for at least one more event." This could be interpreted as opening the door to multi-event suspensions but only under the very specific circumstances of a second suspension within the same year.
EDIT ADDED: Round 1 of contact with Mr. Ulrich Staehr of the MS is concluded. I neglected to ask permission to duplicate or paraphrase his responses on the blog so that portion will have to wait. With respect to multi-event suspensions the MS cites rule 39.04 as justification. In re-reading the sections highlighted by Ulrich it appears the league can reasonably make that case if one of the two events is currently being played at the time of the ejection and suspension. There is much more coming thanks to Ulrich's willingness to engage on this subject.
Btw, having found no supporting rules in any available variant of the MS rules I checked to see if the MS was subject--as a member of the EPBF--to any written EPBF rules governing the subject at hand. Turns out there aren't. Any such rules. (For your own look see go here.) As the EPBF appears to be intended to have direct oversight of Eurorefs I took a look there too for any applicable information or guidelines. That portion of the EPBF is to date incomplete. (See here.) And since the EPBF is (at some future date intended to operate) under the auspices of the UPBF as the world governing body I even took a look there. Sorta. Turns out I could have upbf.com from GoDaddy today. (I passed.) The best information I could find on the UPBF is here. Bottom line, from all sources available it appears the decision of an 8 year ban is outside the parameters of the league's own rules. You may argue so were the actions involved. I would disagree given the language in some of the rules provisions. Regardless the point that remains is if the league can mete out arbitrary penalties to H.D. they can do the same at anytime to anyone else too. And that should be recognized as everyone's problem--and one that needs to be dealt with before a similar situation occurs.
If you don't think the issue is one that should concern you take a look at this page on the MS website. It's the current suspensions list for 2012. You will note that to date this year 3 players besides H.D. have received multi-event suspensions--contrary to the written rules.
EDIT ADDED: As noted above I rescind my claim that the MS has no basis for a two event suspension under the conditions that one of the two events is currently being played.
Now about that other business. Does the league hold its refs and other reps to any kind of standard of conduct? The question arises because part of the story that is coming out claims the ref who got punched lied (prior to the punch) in order to justify pulling H.D.'s card on the field (which constituted an automatic suspension and ejection.) If true it doesn't justify H.D.'s actions. It does go some way to explain how the situation escalated to the point where a punch was thrown. Again, if true, it seems to me to have a bearing on the final outcome. It means the ref shares some portion of the blame and makes the league complicit with the only guy paying a price for his actions, the customer. After all if lying about what occurred on the field is okay with the MS what else is okay? Drunken refs? Refs under the influence? If there are no standards there is no accountability.
In an attempt to assure accuracy and perhaps get a statement regarding the Mill's thinking in leveling a ban of this duration I have contacted the league's head of rules & officials with a series of short questions and a request for a clarification. I asked about justification of the ban in accordance with the current rule book. (Yes, I know but this is serious business so no laughing aloud--or allowed.) I asked about the outcome of any similar past incidents and I asked if the league had any formal or informal standards of conduct for their referees. When that reply is forthcoming VFTD will revisit the topic.