NRL will keep 22 referees in 2021: Pearce

Matt Encarnacion
ARL Commissioner Wayne Pearce is confident the NRL will resume with the single-referee model

ARL Commissioner Wayne Pearce has guaranteed the NRL will retain a squad of 22 full-time referees beyond this season.

The league is currently in mediation talks with the referees union after making the controversial decision to abandon the two-referee model this week.

Conciliation has been adjourned to Tuesday.

Pearce promised the governing body will press on with the move, which has drawn fierce criticism from numerous players and coaches.

The development means full-time referees will be deployed as touch judges, a role traditionally filled by officials on part-time contracts.

"There was a level of inconsistency in the interpretations from the full-time to the part-timers," Pearce told Triple M radio on Saturday.

"What's going to happen now for the rest of the season, given that we've gone back to one referee, is that we're going to have all full-time officials.

"The referees that were doing centre-field refereeing that haven't got a game are going to be doing the sidelines on matches.

"So effectively, what we've got is all our full-time squad running either the centre-field refereeing position or the sideline."

While the part-time officials face an uncertain future, Pearce went on to assure the union that a minimum of 22 referees will stay on next season.

"Not necessarily the personnel because if they don't step up, they won't be there again next year," he said.

"But the same number of officials will be there again next year as a minimum

"That's something we're speaking to the union about. They're not going to be cutting numbers in that space."

Pearce also defended accusations the Professional Rugby League Match Officials weren't consulted about the shock change in the refereeing model.

The PRLMO on Thursday submitted a complaint to the Fair Work Commission claiming the NRL had breached their enterprise agreement.

"As soon as a recommendation to the commission was made, there was consultation with the union," Pearce said.

"That's, in my opinion, what needed to happen. I don't know where the problems lie, but I'm sure that will come to the fore as the negotiations go forward."