The NRL will revert to using one referee for the first time since 2008 under a policy rubber-stamped by the ARL Commission.
The league ended a week of speculation by endorsing the change on Wednesday night, as well as new six-again call for ruck infringements instead of penalties.
The change in refereeing structure will potentially save the game millions this year alone, but comes despite fierce opposition from coaches and players.
Many high-profile players and coaches claim it is unfair to change the rules of the game mid-season, and with little time to prepare players for the alterations.
There are also concerns the return to one referee will slow down the ruck, with no pocket referee charged solely with looking after the tackle and wrestle.
It’s also believed some in an NRL committee meeting earlier this week opposed the move, as well as opposition from the referees’ association.
But ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys instead claimed it would ensure games were controlled by only the best officials.
Under the new structure, the game’s full-time officials will oversee every game.
Regular full-time referees will now act as touch judges, increasing the experience levels on the sidelines and doing away with some part-time wages.
“The decision shouldn’t been seen as taking one referee out, it should be that we are using three full-time experienced referees controlling the game,” V’landys said.
“(This) will ensure greater surveillance of the ruck and the wrestle.
“It’s clear the current system hasn’t effectively addressed the issue of wrestling in the game.
“Reverting to one referee together with the new six again rule gives us a chance to speed up the ruck and create more free-flowing rugby league.”
V’landys also claimed the changes were in line with what fans wanted and praised the fact it would bring the game in line with international rules.
Meanwhile the new ruck rules mean the referee will instantly wave six again when he sees an infringement, stopping teams from being able to reset their lines.
The official will also have the power to blow a penalty or sin bin a player for repeated infringements, in a bid to stop teams from lying in the ruck early in tackle counts.
“This decision will significantly reduce the number of stoppages in games and showcase more open, unstructured play for the benefit of fans,” V’landys said.
“These decisions address the issue of wrestling and slowing the ruck down which has been the biggest issue in the game.
“Giving the attacking team six more tackles for a ruck infringement will be a significant deterrent to slowing the ruck.”