RFL Board approves Laws changes for 2024

The following Laws amendments, recommended by the RFL Laws Committee, were approved by the RFL Board this week – and will therefore be introduced for the 2024 season.

The Board also considered a separate paper on Concussive and Sub-Concussive Impacts, which have led to a number of recommendations from Laws Committee, the Clinical Advisory Group and the Brain Health Sub-Committee which will be announced in due course.

Laws Amendments, 2024

1 – Scrum Penalties

Teams awarded penalties from scrums may now take the option of resetting the scrum – whereas previously, that option was only available for early detachment. Laws Committee recommended the change to encourage attacking play from scrums – by disincentivising deliberate concession of penalties. (The option of using the sin-bin for a repeat offence is seen as especially significant in this regard)

2 – Restarting the tackle count (Six Again)

If a defensive team infringes within the 40-metre area of the team in possession, the referee will award a penalty, rather than restarting the tackle count. Laws Committee felt that some teams were deliberately conceding six-agains early in the tackle count to gain a tactical advantage.
As part of this, Match Officials will put particular emphasis on cleaning up the ruck area. Players, coaches and match officials have agreed to see greater sanction for flops, hands on the ball-by-ball carriers and to ensure that ball carriers regain their feet on the mark and make a genuine attempt to play the ball with the foot. Ahead of the season work will take place to improve these areas and in matches, match officials will be expected to sanction these infringements more firmly.

(Other exemptions remain – professional fouls, repeat infringements, or where play has broken down)

3 – 18th Player Interchange

The 18th Player which teams have named in their matchday squad for use in case of head injuries will now be more readily available. Whereas they could only previously be used when three players had failed Head Injury Assessments (HIAs), they will now be activated following two failed HIAs – or when a player is deemed ineligible to return to the field by any injury (not only to the head) caused by serious foul play which has led to an opponent being dismissed or sent to the sin bin. This change has been endorsed by Head Coaches, the Laws Committee and the Clinical Advisory Group.

4 – Reckless Endangerment

Following an increase in the 2023 season in the number of tackles that have caused serious lower limb injuries, the Laws Committee recommended a new category of Misconduct as part of the Dangerous Contact charge, defined as recklessly endangering the safety of another player by making reckless contact to the lower limb(s) of the ball carrier where they have not made a “controlled” attempt to make a tackle.

This law will only be relevant where the tackler has made contact with the lower leg(s) of the ball carrier. For the avoidance of doubt first contact with the ball carrier could have been above the knee joint but in this situation the direction of the force from the tackler must have been toward the floor.

Indicators for this charge/law breach are the tackler:

  • Is off their feet at the point of contact with the ball carrier
  • Failed to attempt to wrap their arms around the ball carrier as the tackle was made
  • Made contact with the legs of the ball carrier on or below the knee
  • Put their own head in front of the ball carrier
  • In the opinion of the Referee, the player is not looking at the ball carrier when going into or on contact and approach to contact is out of control (e.g., eyes to floor)

5 – Green Card

The Green Card will continue to be used in the circumstances described below, but only in the Betfred Super League (no longer in the Betfred Championship), and only to be shown to players on the defending team (it can no longer be shown to the ball-carrier).

  1. It was introduced to reduce the time taken to deal with injured players on the field of play, without compromising player safety – so if the referee has been requested by a physio or doctor to stop play because of a potentially serious injury to a defending player, and the player involved is not interchanged or taken off for a Head Injury Assessment (HIA), the player will be shown a Green Card requiring him to leave the field for two minutes of elapsed playing time.
  2. Also as previously, a Club may use one of their interchanges to allow the player to remain on the pitch.

RFL Laws Committee – recommendations followed a meeting on November 1 attended by:

Chair – Dr Dave Rotheram (RFL Chief On-Field Officer); Robert Hicks (RFL Chief Regulatory Officer); Dave Elliott (RFL Match Officials Senior Coach); Laura Fairbank (RFL Head of Medical); June Fairhurst (Sky Sports – media representative); Prof Ben Jones (RFL Strategic Lead for Performance, Science and Research); Rhodri Jones (RL Commercial Managing Director); Andrea Murray (National Education Manager); Mike Ford (Oldham – League One representative); Paul Cullen (Match Review Panel); Tony Sutton (RFL Chief Executive)

RFL Brain Health Sub-Committee – list

Chair – Tony Sutton (RFL Chief Executive);

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