The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) has agreed the Telstra Premiership will use one on-field referee for the remainder of the season and introduce six more tackles rather than a penalty stoppage for ruck infringements.
Referees will retain the right to issue a full penalty and place players in the sin bin for persistent ruck infringements and professional fouls. The Commission tonight determined the changes would create more entertaining and free flowing rugby league.
Under the changes, the referee will be given the ability to deal with ruck infringements without interrupting the flow of the game by awarding six more tackles rather than a stoppage for a penalty.
Changes to the refereeing model will include full time referees being used as touch judges to provide more experience to sideline officiating. Currently, the touch judges are employed on a part time basis. This will ensure three experienced first grade referees will be on the field at all times.
ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys AM said the Commission’s decision would address ongoing issues around wrestling and slow play the balls.
“The decision shouldn’t been seen as taking one referee out it should be that we are using three full time experienced referees controlling the game which will ensure greater surveillance of the ruck and the wrestle,” he said.
“This decision will significantly reduce the number of stoppages in games and showcase more open unstructured play for the benefit of fans.
“These decisions address the issue of wrestling and slowing the ruck down which has been the biggest issue in the game.
“It’s clear the current system hasn’t effectively addressed the issue of wrestling in the game. Reverting to one referee together with the new six again rule gives us a chance to speed up the ruck and create more free flowing rugby league.
“Giving the attacking team six more tackles for a ruck infringement will be a significant deterrent to slowing the ruck.
“No team is going to want to defend multiple sets of tackles without a stoppage in play. This is the greatest disincentive for what has become habitual ruck infringements.”
The NRL is the only rugby league competition in the world that uses two referees and the game will now be internationally aligned
Mr V’landys said the Commission had also taken into account the view of fans when making the decision.
“When I became Chairman, I said I would listen to the fans. Last year we conducted a fan survey and the overwhelming majority of fans said they wanted to go back to one referee and their views should be taken on board.”
The Commission has given a commitment that all 22 full time referees will be retained for the remainder of the season and there is no intent to reduce that number in 2021.
The Commission will review the one referee model at the end of the year to determine whether it remains a permanent fixture for future seasons.