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Obstruction off limits for video referees at Summer Bash

Referees boss Steve Ganson
Referees boss Steve Ganson

VIDEO referees will not be allowed to check for obstruction, foul play, onside/offside or challenges in the air during a new system trialled at the Betfred Championship Summer Bash this weekend.

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.

The move is sure to please fans, coaches and players alike after growing frustrations particularly surrounding 'tries' being chalked off for obstruction during televised games.

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.”

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, is made up of a number of stakeholders from across the game, including former players and current coaches.