New changes to video referee system to be trialled at Summer Bash

This weekend’s Summer Bash will trial a new Video Referee system for the first time – with a reduction in the number of incidents a Video Referee may consider when a try is referred by an on-field official among the host of changes included.

As part of ongoing discussions between the Match Officials Department and Sky Sports, the trial, which will only be in force this weekend at Blackpool, will see video referees consider just three areas – the grounding of the ball, if the player is in touch/touch in goal or if the dead ball line is in play.

As well as a reduction in the number of areas a Video Referee may consider, during the trial the on-field official will also not make a ‘live’ decision on the incident referred to the Video Referee. During the trial at the Summer Bash, other key changes to the system mean that the Video Referee will not check for obstruction, foul play, onside or offside or challenges in the air.

Speaking about the trial, Rugby Football League Head of Match Officials, Steve Ganson, said: “We are continuously looking at ways in which we can streamline and improve the Video Referee system.

“We have worked hard in recent years and have seen the amount of time it takes for a decision come down significantly, but we are always willing to discuss new ideas and receive feedback from our partners.”

“The Summer Bash offers the perfect opportunity to conduct a trial across six games and we will be interested to receive feedback from fans, players, coaches and the broadcaster following the event.”

Sky Sports Head of Rugby League, Neville Smith, said: “We regularly receive feedback from fans and viewers about our programming. Many that contact us have ideas on changes to the Video Referee system, with the aim of improving the viewing experience for the fans.

“Sky Sports and Rugby League were pioneers in video technology ‘in-game’ and we will never stand still looking to improve what we offer fans.”

Key Changes to Video Referee System for Summer Bash Trial

Try Changes

  • No ‘live’ call from on-field match official
  • No checks for obstruction
  • No checks on foul play
  • No checks on-side or offside on kicks
  • No checking challenges in the air

General Play Changes

  • No checks of knock-ons in general play/ or scrum, head and feeds, even if the ball is out of play
  • 40/20 – can be checked where ball is kicked from ie inside the 40 but not where it goes out

Restart Changes

  • Goal line drop out
  • 20m tap
  • Process:
    • Ref to nominate restart
    • Video Referee has no more than two looks, if footage inconclusive go with referees nominated restart as above

Any permanent changes to the laws of the game, including changes to powers of the video referee, is subject to approval by the Rugby Football League’s Laws Committee. The Laws Committee which was reviewed by Rugby Director Kevin Sinfield and refreshed in January 2018, is made up of a number of stakeholders from across the game, including former players and current coaches.