Inside RL: My 10-point plan to improve the game – Smith

Leeds Rhinos' players celebrate their Challenge Cup victory over  Castleford at Wembley last year.
Leeds Rhinos' players celebrate their Challenge Cup victory over Castleford at Wembley last year.
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BASED ON recent matches, here’s a few suggestions – in no particular order – of ways to improve the game.

None of them is particularly radical or would alter the character of the sport, but perhaps they’d add to the entertainment.

1: Scrap video referees.

The current system – whereby the referee gives an opinion on whether a try has been scored or not before asking for the video assistants’ opinion – seemed like a good idea when it was introduced, but isn’t working.

Supposedly, there has to be clear evidence the ref has made a mistake for the video officials to overrule him.

That has led to costly errors, for example Castleford Tigers’ disallowed try at Catalans Dragons early in the season.

The old system, where decisions were handed on for a single video referee to make a ruling, wasn’t effective either, as too many mistakes were made.

Long delays for decisions break up the action and are boring for television viewers and fans on the terraces.

Also, it’s an uneven playing field, as not all games are televised. Unless somebody can come up with a system which is going to eliminate mistakes, let’s just leave it to the men in the middle.

2: Assuming that isn’t going to happen, because the broadcasters wouldn’t want it to, let’s go totally the other way and allow video referees to intervene if a clear mistake has been made anywhere on the pitch, not just when called on in try-scoring situations.And there should be a video ref at every game. In other words, all or nothing.

3: Double-movements should be allowed in a try-scoring situation.

If a player is hauled down near the line, why shouldn’t he be allowed to reach over?

The game is supposed to be about scoring tries, not finding ways to prevent them. It would also make things easier for match officials.

4: An obstruction should only be an obstruction if somebody is actually obstructed.

Defenders making a bad read and waving their arms around in an attempt to con the ref does not count.

5: Chargedowns should not re-start the tackle count.

Charging a kick down is a skill of the game, but one which the current rules tend to punish rather than reward.

If a defender manages to get his body in the way to prevent a drop goal, for example, why should the attacking team get another six tackles to try again?

6: Spend some of the RFL’s profit on recruiting more match officials.

The standard isn’t good enough and there’s not enough of them.

And go back to part-time referees, so aspiring officials don’t have to give up their job to get to the top in the sport.

Having full-time officials hasn’t improved standards and seems to give certain referees the impression they are stars.

7: Reduce the number of permitted substitutions.

It was six a few years ago, before being increased to 12 and then reduced to 10.

Stamina and punishing tiring defences is an integral part of the game.

Then maybe there’d be room for more players who aren’t 6ft 2 and 15 stone.

8: Bring the Challenge Cup final forward to its traditional spring – late April or early May – slot, with the earlier rounds played in pre- and early-season.

The Challenge Cup has been in decline ever since the final was moved to August a decade ago.

Long breaks – often of a couple of months between rounds – and then having the semis and final just two weeks apart doesn’t help the competition either.

9: Make the disciplinary system more transparent.

Stick to the sentencing tariff and open up hearings to the media.

Also, if a player is suspended, one game of his ban should be served against the team he was facing when the offence occurred.

If the offence is in a Challenge Cup tie, the guilty player should miss the next match in that competition, even if it is weeks in the future.

10: Ban Wigan fans from Twitter.

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