Referees standing firm against the NRL as deadline looms

The start of the rugby league season could hinge on the outcome of a Fair Work Commission hearing on Thursday, after mediation between the NRL and national referees’ association broke down on Tuesday.

The referees’ association believes the decision to reduce the number of on-field referees from two to one ahead of next week’s season start date is not upholding the current enterprise bargaining agreement.

In a conciliation that lasted around three hours on Tuesday, both parties failed to reach an agreement.

“We made an offer to the NRL with respect to helping them save some costs and a few other things, but they were rejected,” said the chairman of the Professional Rugby League Match Officials, Silvio Del Vecchio.

“They made an offer to us, but it was immaterial to us and we rejected that.”

A referee holds up 10 fingers as he sends an NRL player to the sin-bin during a match.

A referee holds up 10 fingers as he sends an NRL player to the sin-bin during a match.

The NRL referees association lodged a dispute with the Fair Work Commission after the league reduced the number of on-field referees from two to one.(AAP: Brendon Thorne)

Last week the NRL announced that only one on-field referee would be used for the rest of the season, in a bid to save money and make the game more entertaining.

Many of the game’s stakeholders have been split on the benefits of such a move, while the referees’ association has maintained it was not properly consulted.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V’Landys attended the meeting in Sydney on Tuesday and was one of the first to leave.

Mr Del Vecchio says both parties didn’t really come close to reaching a resolution.

“We went to the Fair Work Commission this morning with a desire to resolve this issue through conciliation,” he said.

Silvio Del Vecchio stands on a street wearing a blue suit and pale yellow tie

Silvio Del Vecchio stands on a street wearing a blue suit and pale yellow tie

Silvio Del Vecchio said wholesale changes had been made without consultation.(ABC News: Elena de Bruin)

“We need to look at what’s brought us here and what’s brought us here is wholesale changes have been made without any consultation, without any discussion.”

Mr Del Vecchio doesn’t believe the dispute will stop the game from going ahead with its planned season restart next week, although he’s unsure what role the referees will play.

“The game will go ahead next week on the 28th,” he said.

“This is about employee rights and our employees are governed by the enterprise bargaining agreement and it must be upheld.

“We are willing to talk about a whole range of things.”

The National Rugby League declined to comment on the progress of discussions.

The game did confirm the six venues that will stage matches during the first phase of the competition restart, to be used for at least seven weeks.

Western Sydney Stadium, Campbelltown Stadium, Central Coast Stadium, Lang Park, North Queensland Stadium and Melbourne Rectangular Stadium will all host matches.

The full draw for the remainder of the season will be released this Thursday, the same day the Fair Work Commission arbitration is scheduled.