NRL to proceed with single-referee system after reaching agreement with match officials’ union

Australia

The dispute between the NRL and the referees’ union has been resolved, with the whistleblowers agreeing to the league’s move to proceed with one referee for the remainder of the season.

Under the deal, 22 full-time referees will be employed both this year and next with the one-referee system to be a “trial” that is reviewed at year’s end.

The referees’ association, the Professional Rugby League Match Officials (PRLMO), had been planning to go before an arbitration hearing at the Fair Work Commission after a decision by the Australian Rugby League Commission to return to one on-field referee.

But the union has now reached a deal to have a single official for the remainder of the year, and for part-time referees who are not required to retain a $500-a-week payment.

The system will be reviewed at the end of the year by representatives of players, coaches, referees and the NRL management.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys said the six-again rule for ruck penalties would also be introduced.

“This is an excellent outcome for the game and all its stakeholders. Can I thank the individual referees for the way they conducted themselves during today’s discussion,” V’landys said on Friday.

“It was heart-warming to see their desire that nothing stands in the way of the 28th May commencement of our great game and they want to be an integral part of its success.

“The new rule changes will make our game faster and more entertaining. Most importantly it will address the biggest on-field issues which are speed around the ruck, and the eradication of the wrestle.”

The deal marked a win-win for the NRL after days of acrimony between the game’s executives and the match officials.

Game safer with two refs: union

The referees’ union had infuriated the NRL on Friday by accusing it of overlooking player safety, saying administrators were “arrogant” and were like a “bull in a china shop” in rushing to make changes.

“It’s simple, today’s game is safer with two refs,” the PRLMO said in a statement.

“On numerous occasions, the second referee has picked up potential causes of harm to players which were not detected at the same time by the other three match officials, nor the bunker.

The union claimed that 80 per cent of ruck penalties are spotted by the pocket referee, who has been eliminated in the NRL’s new model.

Mr V’landys insisted that under his plan there would be extra qualified eyes on the ruck, with officials who had previously been pocket referees now acting as touch judges.

Both they and the bunker will be given license to communicate with the central referee on the ruck as part of the changes approved by the commission.

Mr V’landys said eliminating the pocket referee would save close to $2 million in a full season.

ABC/AAP

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