‘Crazy’ $200k cost of NRL referees spat
Former rugby league stars Michael Ennis and Greg Alexander have condemned the Referees Union for their drastic reaction to the one-referee system, which could cost the NRL more than $200,000.
Last week, the ARLC confirmed NRL games will be controlled by one referee for the remainder of the 2020 season in an attempt to cut costs and speed up the game.
On Thursday, Professional Rugby League Match Officials (PRLMO) association chairman Silvio Del Vecchio lodged a dispute with the Fair Work Commission claiming the referees were not consulted about the drastic rule change.
Rugby league commentator Ennis slammed the Referees Union on Tuesday, calling out their "crazy" pay negotiations with the NRL amid a global health crisis.
"Are they missing the point?" Ennis said on Fox League Live.
"Are they completely missing what is going on around them? The whole world is caving in and falling off a cliff.
"The unemployment rate is rising towards ten per cent in Australia and we have got these guys taking industrial action. It is crazy.
"We are nine days out from starting the competition. They are putting hundreds of people's jobs at risk.
"Peter V'landys has gone and fought tooth and nail for all 22 full-time referees. Businesses are hurting and people are hurting.
"For these blokes to come out and do this, I cannot understand it. I think it is bloody ordinary to be honest."
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Penrith Panthers great Greg Alexander echoed Ennis' comments, bluntly telling the Referees Union to "man up".
"I think in the current climate it is ridiculous," Greg Alexander said on Tuesday.
"They can't hold the game to ransom. They mightn't be happy about going back to one referee, but boys, man up and get on with it.
"They have done it all their lives and it is a little bit different, but it is a little bit different for the players as well. Just do it get out there and control the game.
"They are experienced enough, especially the senior referees. It might take them a couple of weeks, but like the players they will get used to it."
ARL Commission chief Peter V'landys accused the NRL's referees of self-interest after peace talks failed, prompting arbitration proceedings.
The NRL and referees' union met with the Fair Work Commission for three hours without progress on Tuesday, following the decision to revert to one whistleblower.
They will now head for arbitration on Friday, where a result will be achieved. It means the restart of the season will not be delayed and strike action is out of the question.
The Daily Telegraph reported unforeseen legal costs from this ongoing spat with the Referees Union could cost the NRL more than $200,000.
V'landys claimed the issue is presenting an unwanted distraction for the game as it tries to pool its energy into a return.
"The thing that is disappointing is the self-interest," V'landys told AAP.
"Every other party … The coaches haven't agreed to everything, the players haven't agreed to everything. But they have been in the trenches.
"But these guys don't care about the game, and they made that very obvious today. Very clear.
"They're only interested in themselves."
V'landys claimed part of the referees' grievance came from a lack of a desire to take a pay cut in line with the rest of the game.
It's understood an objection to the cuts formed part of the Professional Rugby League Match Officials' claim on Tuesday.
The referees union then made an offer to take a pay cut, but only if the two-referee system remained. That proposal was quickly rejected by the league, who are insistent they will not stick with two whistleblowers regardless of what offer is made.
"The commission itself is on 25 per cent less. The NRL executive are on 25 per cent less, the players are on 20 per cent less," V'landys said.
"But these guys want 100 per cent.
"They know we won't accept (an offer to stick with two referees).
"They could have put in there that they will work for free and they're not going to accept it.
"And they're absolutely spending a lot of money, hundreds of thousands of dollars, taking us to arbitration so that we go back to two referees.
"The spin that is coming out of these guys, could make a record player go."
The NRL has insisted the move to one referee is as much about speeding the game up, while also saving costs. It was originally met with opposition from players and coaches, but most have now claimed they just want the game to begin and are willing to see if it and the six-again rule for ruck infringements work.
Union boss Silvio Del Vecchio said he was disappointed with the result, but would not hold up the season and strike, regardless of the outcome this week.
"Very, very disappointing," Del Vecchio said.
"Today the commissioner was there and he acted as the go-between to help the parties come together.
"But on Thursday or Friday, whenever it is, the commissioner will table the information, table the evidence and make a ruling.
"They make a call one way or another."
- With AAP
Originally published as 'Crazy' $200k cost of NRL referees spat