The dispute between the NRL and the referees’ union ended when the refs themselves decided to drop a threat of industrial action, league football boss Graham Annesley has revealed.
A war of words between the referees’ union and ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys on Friday came to an unexpected conclusion when weekend arbitration was called off after it was agreed the pocket official would be scrapped for the rest of the 2020 season.
A one-referee system will now be in place starting from next week when the league resumes following a COVID-19 enforced hiatus.
The dispute had put the competition’s restart in jeopardy and an impasse looked likely after a Professional Rugby League Match Officials statement accused the NRL of overlooking player safety and labelled them “arrogant” in rushing through changes.
But it appears the union’s members had a different position, with NRL head of football Graham Annesley saying they were behind the sudden resolution of the dispute.
“The thing I need to make absolutely clear is that it was the referees themselves that ultimately decided last night not to continue with the dispute,” Annesley told AAP.
“They didn’t want to be the focus of attention over the course of this weekend in arbitration. They didn’t want to be the focus of attention leading in to the start of the competition next week and they had the best interests of the game at heart when they made their decision to accept the single referee model for the remainder of this year.”
For this year, 22 full-time referees will be employed and the one referee system will be reviewed by a working committee of players, coaches, referees and management before a decision is made on what model will be adopted for 2021.
Annesley said the NRL was “not concerned” about their relationship with referees following the dispute.