Golden point extra-time and a shot clock will make their debut in Betfred Super League this year, it has been confirmed.
Competition organisers say law changes announced on new year’s day will “introduce more speed and on-field drama for spectators and television viewers to enjoy”.
Shot clocks will be installed at all 12 Super League grounds this month and the system will be in use at selected pre-season matches, expected to include Leeds Rhinos’ derby against Castleford Tigers on Sunday, January 20.
Teams will be penalised if they fail to beat the shot clock for scrums (35 seconds) or drop-outs (30 seconds) and sanctions will also be introduced to ensure that no more than 80 seconds of match time is used up by each kick at goal.
The penalty will go against the team not binding and packing properly at the scrum, or to the team with the feed if neither side are ready when the shot clock reaches zero.
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.
The number of interchanges available to each team has been reduced from 10 to eight and if scores are level after 80 minutes up to two five-minute periods of extra-time will be played with the first team to score winning the match.
If either team scores in extra time the game will be drawn.
According to Super League: “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.”
Super League say the 12 top-flight clubs proposed the law changes - which include scrapping the free-play rule - after “extensive” consultation with players, coaches, fans, commercial partners and the NRL, during and following the 2018 season.
Given the likely increased pressure on all match officials as a result of the quickening pace of the game, clubs gave their support for a second referee for all Super League fixtures.
Due to time pressures, the clubs and Rugby Football League have agreed to defer the introduction of the second referee, with trials to take place during 2019.
Super League chief executive Robert Elstone said: “There’s been a lot of talk about the changes we’re making for 2019 and New Year’s Day feels like the right time to confirm them, and to outline them in full.
“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.
“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.”
He added: There’s so much to look forward to for Super League fans in 2019. We will be entertained by some great new players arriving from the NRL. These players will be tested, week-in, week-out by the ever-growing and ever-more talented crop of young homegrown players, many of whom debuted with such promise and confidence in 2018.”
“We hope supporters will welcome the rule changes we’re announcing today as part of those new beginnings - and cannot wait to get the season started.”
Championship and League One clubs have rejected golden point for their competition, but the number of interchanges will be reduced in line with Super League.
The same time limits on scrums and drop-outs will apply in the Championship, but will be monitored by timekeepers and shot clocks will not be installed.
The restrictions will not apply in League One, where timekeepers are not used.