Mailbox: No action over flouting of the rules

Photo courtesy of Richard Long

Mailbox gives you the chance to get your voice heard and start the debate with the rugby league audience. Want to be featured? Email the editor:

Dear James,

Another season is just around the corner, and for my own piece of mind I have to keep pushing the flouting of the laws. I could list every section but one that really winds me up is play the ball.

This flouting of the rules is particularly obvious when watching on TV as the close up show the rank disregard to the rules. I don’t blame the players and coaches as they push the boundaries as far as they can to get an advantage. But now it is so far from the written word either the RFL implements it or rewrites it.

Some 10 years ago they had a crack at it and were disallowing tries on video refs decisions did he or didn’t he touch the ball with his foot.So now the RFL has abdicated its responsibility to follow the rules and left it to the poor referee to “interpret as he or she sees fit”and we now have a free for all. We as fans are in the dark as to what is acceptable or not.

Here is a letter I have sent recently to RFL:

Having watched the game for over 50 years I am totally dismayed at the flouting of the rules, and it is your responsibility as the governing body to: define the rules, change the rules, and police the rules. Over the last 10 years in an attempt to speed up the game the play the ball has become a farce.

I enclose an extract from YOUR rules

10. The play-the-ball shall operate as follows.
Release tackled player immediately (a) The tackled player shall be immediately released and shall not be touched until the ball is in play.
Regain feet (b) The tackled player shall without delay regain his feet where he was tackled, lift the ball clear of the ground, face his opponent’s goal line and drop or place the ball on the ground in front of his foremost foot.
Player marking (c) One opponent may take up the position immediately opposite the tackled player.
(d) The tackled player may not play the ball before the players effecting the tackle have had time to clear the ruck.
Play with foot (e) When the ball touches the ground it must be heeled (i.e. backwards) by the tackled player. The ball must not be kicked or heeled by the player marking him. The ball is in play when it has been played backward.

Just breaking the play the ball down, and this occurs at every level in every competition (other than the Australian NRL who incidentally at least make an attempt to play the ball with the foot).

  • When the player has been tackled, they invariably roll to one side to clear the ruck (in the name of speed).
  • They Never implement rule 10 d and invariably place the ball on the ground in the process of getting to their feet.
  • They then step over the ball and roll it backwards , again not implementing rule 10e. I have not seen a correct play the ball in the last 30 years, the nearest compliance is playing it with the sole of the foot.
  • The defending tacker now finds himself just regaining his feet with the attaching player off to one side, along with the defending dummy half. This then results in a penalty for not standing straight.
  • The attacking team plays on this rule which is systematic cheating. By adopting this tactic 2 defenders are immediately offside if they attempt a tackle.
  • I am not saying the defending side is blameless but they are at a disadvantage.

I am not alone in this, there are many fans forums that mention exactly the same frustrations.

So my questions to you are:

1. Is the RFL going to implement the laws as written?
2. Amend the laws as written?
3. As a fan I cannot condone referees or the governing bodies applying an interpretation Rules are rules and should be applied or amended.

I am limiting this email to one subject but if you are thinking of amending the rules  then you had better look at the scrimmaging wholesale, and those have been outdated for the last 50 years anyway, its no more than a group hug for 12 guys who don’t even have to be forwards.

I notice your mission statement

  • We are united in striving to deliver great Rugby League experiences
  • We value your opinion – if you have feedback we want to hear about it
  • We strive to provide excellence in customer service and experience
  • We will listen, respond and provide honest feedback with respect
  • We are professional and we want to get things right for you, each and every time
  • If we don’t succeed we will make every wrong, right
  • We will protect your personal information

So I Iook forward to your response which I will share with other forums so clarifications will enable the fans to understand the rules  as written.

This is the response I received, which is nearly word for word the same as last year.

As policy we do not offer comment on match officials, officiating, decisions made during play, laws of the game and interpretations of laws.

Laws of the game are freely available online (as you have pointed out) and alongside our full time match officials department we employ an independent standards panel to assess the quality of officiating in our sport. We understand that this may not provide clarity on the many points you have raised in your correspondence but hope you can appreciate and respect why this policy is in place.

So if the RFL the governing body do not comment on refereeing decisions, and the interpretation of the laws. Just exactly what do they do? and who do we contact to get a response?

There mission statement is along way from their actions.

So where to now, this is going to be my next question to the RFL.

Graham Collins

Mailbox gives you the chance to get your voice heard and start the debate with the rugby league audience. Want to be featured? Email the editor:

About James Gordon 7040 Articles
Love Rugby League editor. Founded the website back in 2005. Worked with a range of clubs and sponsors during that time. Also commentates for BBC.


  1. Just get rid of the mandatory foot roll (“heeling”) and make it that they need to pass it backwards with either their hand or feet. And scrub out rule 10-d. Now everyone’s compliant with the rules.

    • Sorry Anon,but your idea for rolling back with “hands or feet ” would lead to farcical (yes, even more than at present)situations, the ball not being controlled and a complete free-for-all. Nothing wrong with the way it was played before, with contact with the foot. Really cannot see why referees should have a problem with this. Acouple of penalties against offenders and Coaches will quickly sort out the problem.

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