RFL make amendments to referee policy in bid to stamp out cheating

Players who are caught cheating – or attempt to cheat – in the ruck area will now be penalised after Rugby Football League made additions to their refereeing policy. 

The 2019 referee policy amendments now mean previously awarded penalties regarding passes aimed at players will now result in the passer now being penalised, rather than the other way around.

The following changes are with immediate effect, and apply to all levels of the game.

The RFL have introduced the following:

  • Players must ensure they place the ball on the ground at their feet. If the ball is placed on the tackler in the ruck, this will be ruled a knock-on.
  • Players must not step over opposition players to purposely put them in the ruck. If necessary, the player should step backwards. The player in possession will be penalised for moving off the mark if they deliberately step over a defender to place them in the ruck.
  • The movement of the ball by the foot at the play-the-ball should be controlled, and players lying in the ruck who touch the ball or prevent the dummy half from collecting the ball will still be penalised.
  • However, a penalty will be awarded against the player playing the ball if the ball is forcibly heeled back with the intention of contacting the defending player with the ball.
  • And as previously mentioned, any ball passed into an opposing player in and around the ruck, in any direction, will be deemed to be acting against the spirit of the game and will be immediately penalised.

Steve Ganson, the RFL’s Head of Match Officials, explained: “A number of high-profile incidents during and before the Easter weekend have shown certain teams or players acting contrary to the spirit of the game, in a manner that has infuriated fellow professionals, broadcasters and, crucially, supporters.

“After internal consultation, we have therefore decided to make these changes to referee policy with immediate effect, applying throughout the game. This is an unusual step, but not unprecedented – and we hope it will be welcomed by coaches, players and supporters.

“There is a meeting of head coaches next week, followed by the regular meeting of the RFL laws committee, at which these matters will be discussed, along with the situation regarding obstruction which has also been provoking a lot of discussion.”

A Super League spokesperson said: “Super League has been increasingly concerned by the increasing number of players taking advantage of the strict application of the laws around players lying in the ruck at the play-the-ball and has been working with the RFL to find a solution.

“Super League is keen to stop players using the rules to gain an unfair advantage and supports referees who penalise obvious gamesmanship.

“It also welcomes allowing match officials to apply a less strict, judgement-based interpretation of the rules based on the official’s observations at each ruck.”

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