RFL confirm adjustments to play-the-balls in 2020

The Rugby Football League have confirmed plans to clean up play-the-balls in 2020.

As revealed in League Express, match officials are set to clamp down on disingenuous attempts to play-the-ball after being tackled.

It was unanimously agreed at a Laws Committee last month that there would be a change to the wording surrounding play-the-balls.

There is now added emphasis on the tackled played “to maintain balance and control and make a genuine attempt to make contact on the ball with the foot”.

In a statement, the RFL added that “it is also the tackled player’s responsibility to place the ball on the ground at their feet and not on a defender – and a failure to fulfil any of those requirements (balance, control, placing the ball on the ground and making a genuine attempt to play it with the foot) will be ruled a lost ball (not a penalty), leading to a scrum”.

Meanwhile, the responsibility of defenders is also detailed as follows:

“No tackler should make an adjustment on the tackle or leave hands or body in the play-the-ball area after the tackle is complete. Referees should act on any interference once the tackle has been called”;

“Tacklers who ‘clamp’ the ball and keep their hands/arm on the ball when the ball carrier is standing up should be penalised”.

Meanwhile, the RFL has confirmed other changes that have been approved, including an instant sin-bin for any punch or strike to the head.

Reduced shot clocks the new implementation of Golden Point in Championship and League 1 and the new 21-man squad declarations have also been formally ratified.

The RFL’s Dave Rotheram said: “We start every season with the aim of ensuring the game is safe, entertaining and fair. In the first few rounds of 2019, it was widely agreed that gamesmanship at the play-the-ball was causing much angst amongst players, coaches and spectators. After consulting with Head Coaches mid-season (2019), they and the match officials worked well to tidy up the ruck. This revised policy will hopefully ensure that we start 2020 with fewer grey areas – that is why we have waited until after the pre-season meeting to inform spectators and the media of the law interpretations that will be applied in 2020.

“During their pre-season visits to Super League, Championship and League 1 clubs, match officials have provided support and guidance, emphasising a number of key areas, and especially the play-the-ball, which is a crucial area of the game, and a major focus for coaches and their players.

“Coaches and players are represented on the Laws Committee, as well as a number of distinguished former players who are now in administrative roles, and we thank them all for their contribution to the discussions.

“We hope that publishing the On-Field Policy and Video Referee Protocols for 2020 on the RFL’s digital channels, as well as a Fans Guide to the Video Referee, will be welcomed by supporters and the media.”