The NRL has launched a refereeing blueprint for the future to improve the efficiency, consistency and accuracy of match officials.
Head of Football Todd Greenberg said referees had to make hundreds of decisions in every game and the NRL wanted to help them get them right.
“We need to support our referees because they have a tough job to do and, generally, they do it pretty well,” Mr Greenberg said.
“Referees have to make so many decisions and they are often, made in the blink of an eye and in a high-pressured environment.
“But we know fans and players want referees’ decisions to be as efficient, accurate and consistent as humanly possible, which is why we are developing a blueprint of short and longer term measures to help us keep improving.”
Mr Greenberg said the NRL would:
• Undertake a feasibility study into a Central Command Centre where “in game” decisions can be made. It is possible the Centre could be trialled as early as midway through next season. Ultimately, the Centre could include a social media hub so that decision making is quickly communicated to fans and members.
• Examine all aspects of the elite match officials program including the current two-referee model.
• Engage experts including former Australian cricket coach John Buchanan and Rugby League Immortal Bob Fulton to investigate options to improve the performance of the game’s elite referees.
• Explore the possibility of introducing new technology to “digitise” time keeping protocols so they are coordinated between venues and the broadcasters.
• Improve the pathways for match officials so the very best are provided opportunities to move into the senior NRL ranks quickly.
Mr Greenberg said the NRL, through its partnership with statistics provider Prozone, had already begun benchmarking individual referee performance each week using statistics and game analytics.
“This season is the first time in rugby league’s history that we have analysed the performance of our referees week-by-week in much the same way that players have their on-field performance monitored,” he said.
“It means we can check the performance of our match officials based on fact rather than how coaches, players or other people may think a referee is performing.”
Mr Greenberg said Mr Buchanan and Mr Fulton would form part of an internal working group that would look at the models used in other sports and what resources were needed in Rugby League to produce best practice refereeing standards.
“We are not pretending for a minute that our referees can get every call right because, like players, they will make mistakes during the course of a game,” he said.
“But if we can improve referees’ efficiency, consistency and accuracy, particularly at key moments of the game, then this program will be well worthwhile.”
NRL Referees Elite Performance Manager, Tony Archer said referees would welcome the moves to assist match officials.
“At the end of the day our referees and match officials just want to get decisions right,” he said.