RFL confirm introduction of 21-man squads: with clubs punished for late changes from 2020

The Rugby Football League have revealed that clubs will be required to name a 21-man squad, rather than a 19-man one, for all games starting from next season: with any player brought in for a match outside the named 21 costing that team one of their eight permitted interchanges.

In a move revealed by League Express earlier this year, the RFL have agreed to make arguably the biggest change to the squad declaration system since it was introduced in 2009. The 2019 season saw growing frustration among supporters and clubs as teams freely selected players from outside their original 19-man squad without any real consequence.

But now, in an attempt to change that, the governing body has permitted two extra players to be named in the matchday squads – with clubs now punished for any changes after the declaration of their 21-man squad for any given game in Super League, Championship, League 1 and the two domestic cup competitions.

The change was discussed by the RFL’s Laws Committee, which includes representatives from all sections of the professional game, at their last meeting of 2019, leading to further consultation with clubs and head coaches – and is confirmed in the Operational Rules for the 2020 season which have been circulated to clubs this week. Clubs are, however, allowed to bring a player in late without being penalised include a club losing a player at a tribunal hearing heard after the deadline. The RFL say that in ‘other exceptional circumstances, a club would need to seek and receive consent from the RFL Board’.

“The annual redrafting of the Operational Rules is a consultative process, as always designed to serve the good of the game as a whole, and of clubs and players in particular,” Karen Moorhouse said.

“The change to the Squad Declaration system was proposed in response to feedback from various sections of the game, including supporters and the media. As with all the other changes, we will monitor the impact of the changes carefully through the 2020 season. We are grateful to all who have contributed to this process.”

The RFL have also confirmed that a limited number of amateur players can now be registered with professional clubs. League 1 clubs can register up to 10, Championship sides 5 and Super League 2, while all clubs in the revived RFL Reserves League will also be able to register an additional two University players.