NRL referees’ union lodges complaint to Fair Work Commission

The union representing NRL referees has lodged a dispute notice with the Fair Work Commission over the league’s plans to move from two match referees to one.

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC), which governs the NRL, announced last night only one on-field referee would be used for the rest of the season.

Professional Rugby League Match Officials (PRLMO) said it had an enterprise bargaining agreement which runs until 2022 and the NRL does not have the right to change the agreement before then.

The NRL is due to play its first match in the restarted season on May 28.

“We are determined that on the 28th of May the quality of our game as we know it will be retained by being officiated under the current model that has been tested and successful for more than a decade,” PRLMO chairman Silvio Del Vecchio said in a statement.

The return to one referee has been touted for several weeks as a cost-cutting measure for the league, which has been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Two referees have been used to officiate NRL matches since 2009 and it is the only professional rugby league competition in the world that uses this model.

“We continue to ask the NRL to engage in open dialogue with us, yet they continue to ignore those requests”, Del Vecchio said.

Queensland State of Origin coach Kevin Walters said he supported the move back to one referee, claiming the game worked “beautifully for 100 years” under that model.

“We got some better decisions on different occasions (with two referees) but it didn’t dramatically change the way the game was played,” Walters told Fox Sports.

“We’ve just got to get on with our game. Make it work and if it means one referee, let’s work with one referee.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys said most NRL supporters wanted the competition to return to using one on-field referee.

“When I became chairman, I said I would listen to the fans,” V’landys said in a statement last night.

“Last year we conducted a fan survey and the overwhelming majority of fans said they wanted to go back to one referee and their views should be taken on board.”

The ARLC is expected to review the one-referee model at the end of the year before deciding whether it remains a permanent fixture for future seasons.

It also announced six more tackles will be introduced rather than a penalty stoppage for ruck infringements.