Last night at one of our meetings, we where addressed by a senior RFU referee development officer. Discussion turned to the Experimental Law Variations (ELVs), he was at an IRB meeting last week and it seems there is a strong desire by the IRB to trail these at EVERY level of the game and this could be as early as next season. Previously, the IRB has pledged not to change Laws in the two years prior to a world cup, which would not leave much time for analysis before they became permanent. Apparently, the Six Nations are cautious but not yet against the experiment.
More about the ELVs Here
The mood of the refs present was generally hostile. Most agreed that some ELV made sense; corner flags not being in-touch, not being able to kick straight to touch from the 22 and even 5m off-side at scrums. It was the ruck and maul proposals that met with hostility; it was felt that the grass roots of the game (players and spectators) did not want change and had not been engaged in the discussion. The use of free-kicks instead of scrums to re-start play would radically alter the balance of play, and whilst the game would become faster, this would not suit all players (and officials!).
The IRB Playing Charter states with the Object of the Game that “ The wide variation of skills and physical requirements needed for the game mean that there is an opportunity for individuals of every shape, size and ability to participate at all levels”
The lower emphasis of the scrum would lead to a lesser role for the tall and round, and fewer people participating in the game.
My view was the majority of the refs present felt that ELVs are not what the community game needs and Law changes should not be rail-roaded through because the professional game (and the Southern Hemisphere in particular) sees this as the way forward. There are far more people playing in fields up and down the country on Saturday afternoon than playing at the top level who deserve a say, on this and they don’t have voice.