PRLMO: Rugby League will start next week

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Rugby League will start next week.

That's the unwavering commitment from us, the Professional Rugby League Match Officials (PRLMO) to Rugby League fans around the country. 

There has been some confusion and a great deal of distortion around the dispute we are having with the League's bosses. This is not about us. It goes to the core of what the great game of Rugby League is all about. It is about the safety of the players, as well as the best interests of the wider Rugby League community. It is also about fair and real consultation. 

12 years ago the NRL, in genuine consultation with us and other key stakeholders, decided to add an extra on-field ref. They made that decision the right way, and it remains the right call today. Back then current NRL executive Graham Annesley heralded this historic reform:

"We have talked about it for 10 years, so the time has come" (Daily Tele 2008) 

It's simple: today's game is safer with 2 refs. 

On numerous occasions, the second referee has picked up potential causes of harm to players which were not detected at the same time by the other 3 match officials, nor the bunker. This includes tackles, holds and throws that can cause significant injury. Identifying and responding to these incidents promptly is crucial in ensuring player safety, and in complying with concussion protocols where a head injury is suspected. But this does not appear to concern the League's bosses. 

More importantly for them is, "a more entertaining, free-flowing game". (ARLC Chairman, Peter V'landys 13 May). Yet they cannot explain how taking one referee off the field would achieve that. They also sometimes argue that it's a cost saving measure. Media reports claim the NRL will receive $2 billion from their new broadcast deal. The cost saving of going to one ref is simply peanuts. However, in the spirit of cooperation, the referees were willing to meet and exceed any savings by cutting their wages further. This is on top of the pay cut they have already taken. From the moment the game first shutdown due to the pandemic, the referees have been approaching the League wanting to play their part and share the sacrifices to ensure the Game's viability moving forward. 

The League bosses were simply arrogant with this one ref decision. They were like a ‘bull in a china shop'. They ignored the unanimous view of a Project Apollo discussion panel held on 11 May 2020. Representatives there included players, coaches and clubs, all of whom agreed that the two-referee model was superior. They were just ignored. 

We are committed to our great game, and to keeping it both exciting and safe. If we lose the next hearing in the Fair Work Commission, we will be on the field with one referee on May 28. But if we are successful, we expect that the NRL will respect that decision and have two referees on the field in Round 3 and beyond.