Super League rule changes are positive - but the laws of the game need rationalising

04 January 2019 - Written by Zack Wilson

Super League recently confirmed a number of new rule changes for the 2019 campaign.

The changes were explained in a Super League statement, which reads:

“Teams will be penalised if they fail to beat the shot clock for scrums (35 seconds) or drop-outs (30 seconds) – while sanctions will also be introduced to ensure that no more than 80 seconds of match time is used up by each kick at goal.

“With the number of interchanges available to each team reduced from 10 to eight, the demands on Super League players will become even greater – emphasising the attritional nature of the contest, rewarding the fittest and most mobile players, and providing additional attacking opportunities for the most skilful.

“In addition, in the last five minutes of each fixture, the clock will automatically be stopped following a penalty or a drop goal that goes out of the field of play, or a conversion – or after a try, if a team chooses not to take the conversion attempt.

“That process will be extended if the scores are level at full-time by the introduction of Golden Point extra time, providing two five-minute periods in which to determine a winner.

“The 12 Betfred Super League clubs proposed these law changes after extensive consultation with players, coaches, fans, commercial partners and the NRL, during and following the 2018 season.”

The changes have come about to try and speed up the game in Super League.

“The changes to our rules and laws are there to highlight what’s different and special about Super League. Our competition will get faster, more intense and more dramatic,” Super League chief executive Robert Elstone said.

“They will provide our players with an even better platform to show their outstanding athleticism, courage and skill.

“There’s a growing frustration across sport with time-wasting, gamesmanship and a lack of transparency and integrity in time-keeping. We listened to our supporters and commentators, and the changes are focused on emphasising our sport’s key attributes of intensity, relentlessness and integrity.

All that is very well, and to be welcomed, but yet another governing body issuing a set of rule changes is a touch tiresome.

There is a desperate need for a standardised set of rules for the game at every level, from amateur to international.

Every international series seems to bring a certain amount of confusion for players and spectators with uncertainty about which set of rules is being adopted.

There will always be variations between the elite levels of sport and the grassroots – technological advances over the last two decades have made sure of that.

But few other sports have such a plethora of different rules sets for each competition.

It is time that a standardised set of laws of the game was produced that can be used across the world.

Senior professional competitions and international competitions should be played according to the same laws and rules across the world.

Soccer fans don’t head to an England v Brazil game wondering if they’re going to see a game played according to Premier League or Brazilian Serie A rules.

If we’re serious about being seen as a global, professional sport, rather than just some kind of regional quirk, then things like this need sorting out.

Neutral referees for all internationals is another issue relating to the rules of the game that needs attention, but that is for another day.

The sport desperately needs a definitive set of rules for all competitions. For that, though, we probably need an international governing body that is at least close to being fit for purpose.

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