In rugby league football, the Laws of the Game are the rules governing how the sport is played.[1][2] The Laws are the responsibility of the Rugby League International Federation,[3] and cover the play, officiating, equipment and procedures of the game.

The Laws have undergone significant changes since pioneers of the sport broke away from the Rugby football establishment in 1895. The sport has been described as a "constantly evolving animal, particularly with professional coaches, [with which] the rules have to keep pace".[4]

Laws

The current Laws of the Game and Notes on the Laws are set out in 17 sections:[1]

The current 17 sections, which include notes, are detailed in fewer than 50 pages and around 17,000 words. The Laws therefore have some flexibility to enable decisions to be made without the need to amend them. For example, Section 15, Law 1 (i) considers behaviour "in any way contrary to the true spirit of the game" to be misconduct.[5] That law has been used to prevent chicken-wing tackling techniques, for example.[6]

Origins

Rugby football

The rules of football as played at Rugby School in the 19th century were decided regularly and informally by the pupils. For many years the rules were unwritten.[7] In 1845 three pupils at the school, William Delafield Arnold, Walter Waddington Shirley and Frederick Leigh Hutchins were tasked with writing a codified set of rules by the then Head Schoolboy and football captain Isaac Gregory Smith.[7] The three pupils submitted 37 rules which were approved on 28 August 1845.[8][9] Another pupil, Charles Harcourt Chambers, illustrated the Rules.[7]

The Rules played at the school continued to develop over time and as pupils left they took with them the game as they had played it.[10] In 1871, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) was founded with the purpose of standardising the rules for the clubs playing the Rugby style of football in England.[11] The RFU invited three former pupils, all lawyers, to write the standardised rules, and they titled their work as laws.[10] In June of that year the first Laws of the Game were approved.[10]

Unions were formed to govern the game in other countries but the English RFU continued to control the Laws until 1885.[10] In 1884, there had been a dispute over the rules between the English and Scottish unions after a match between the two countries;[10] this led to the formation of the International Rugby Football Board in 1886 with the intention of settling such disputes.[8][10] The RFU refused to join and in 1887 the members of the new organisation, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, stated that no matches would be played against England until the RFU joined and accepted its rules.[8] In 1890 the RFU joined and in 1892 a significant revision of the laws took place.[8]

Rugby league

From 1895, the year of the schism in the game, the laws of rugby league were initially referred to as "Northern Union" rules, after the new governing body, and were a slight variation on the rules of rugby football as played at that time.[12] What began as modifications to make the competition more entertaining to spectators continued until a distinct sport had emerged.[13]

Initially the rules were decided by the Northern Rugby Football Union, today's Rugby Football League, the governing body for rugby league in the United Kingdom. As the sport spread to around the world, other rugby leagues were established, notably in Australia, France and New Zealand, a more international approach was adopted. In 1948, the International Rugby League Board (IRLB) was formed.[14] Initially the RFL retained this responsibility for the Laws while it was seen how the new Board would develop.[15] The IRLB was invested with responsibility for the Laws later.

During the Super League war, a dispute over media rights and the control of the game originating in Australia, the laws of rugby league were altered by the rival factions, the IRLB and its only remaining member, the Australian Rugby League, and the Super League International Board and its members.

Since 1998 when the different sides reunited, the Laws have been the responsibility of the Rugby League International Federation.

History of changes to the Laws

The Northern Rugby Football Union inherited the existing laws of rugby football, as played until that time by its member clubs. The NRFU immediately made changes. In addition to the time before 1948 when an international governing body was established, members of the International Federation and its predecessors have had the authority to make significant changes to the Laws applied within their jurisdiction.

The following is an incomplete list of changes made to the laws of rugby league since the 1895 schism. Changes to the laws used for senior competitions within the jurisdictions of RLIF members with test nation status are included here.

Additional detail: Included are the flags or icons of the territory affected as well as the name of the governing body responsible and a link to the first season the change was implemented in senior competition (s) by that body. If a Law has since been changed, the Law's current status is indicated, and a link given to the year of the change in this article.

1890s

1895

NRFU Implemented: 1895–96 Northern Rugby Football Union season.

1896

NRFU Implemented: 1896–97 Northern Rugby Football Union season.

1897

NRFU Implemented: 1897–98 Northern Rugby Football Union season.

1899

NRFU Implemented: 1899–1900 Northern Rugby Football Union season.

1900s

1900

NRFU Implemented: 1900–01 Northern Rugby Football Union season.

1901

NRFU Implemented: 1901–02 Northern Rugby Football Union season.

1902

NRFU Implemented: 1902–03 Northern Rugby Football Union season.

1903

NRFU Implemented: 1903–04 Northern Rugby Football Union season.

1904

NRFU Implemented: 1904–05 Northern Rugby Football Union season.

1906

NRFU Implemented: 1906–07 Northern Rugby Football Union season.

1909

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1909 NSWRFL season.

1920s

1920

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1920 NSWRFL season.

1922

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1922 NSWRFL season.

1926

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1926 NSWRFL season.

1927

United Kingdom RFL Implemented: 1927–28 Northern Rugby Football League season.

1930s

1931

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1931 NSWRFL season.

1932

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1932 NSWRFL season.

1940s

1948

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1948 NSWRFL season.

1950s

1950

United Kingdom RFL Implemented: 1950–51 Northern Rugby Football League season.

1951

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1951 NSWRFL season.

1952

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1952 NSWRFL season.

1954

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1954 NSWRFL season.

1956

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1956 NSWRFL season.

1959

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1959 NSWRFL season.

1960s

1961

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1961 NSWRFL season.

1963

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1963 NSWRFL season.

1964

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1964 NSWRFL season.

1966

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1966 NSWRFL season.

United Kingdom RFL Implemented: 1966–67 Northern Rugby Football League season.

1967

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1967 NSWRFL season.

1968

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1968 NSWRFL season.

1969

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1969 NSWRFL season.

1970s

1970

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1970 NSWRFL season.

1971

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1971 NSWRFL season.

1972

United Kingdom RFL Implemented: 1972–73 Northern Rugby Football League season.

1980s

1981

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1981 NSWRFL season.

1982

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1982 NSWRFL season.

1983

Australia NSWRFL Implemented: 1983 NSWRFL season.

1986

Australia NSWRL Implemented: 1986 NSWRL season.

1987

Australia NSWRL Implemented: 1987 NSWRL season.

1988

Australia NSWRL Implemented: 1988 NSWRL season.

1989

Australia NSWRL Implemented: 1989 NSWRL season.

1990s

1990

Australia NSWRL Implemented: 1990 NSWRL season.

1991

Australia NSWRL Implemented: 1991 NSWRL season.

1993

IRLB Implemented: 1993 NSWRL season.

Australia NSWRL Implemented: 1993 NSWRL season.

1994

United Kingdom RFL Implemented: 1994–95 Rugby Football League season.

1996

SLIB Implemented: 1996 Super League World Nines.

AustraliaNew Zealand ARL Implemented: 1996 ARL season.

United Kingdom France RFL Implemented: Super League I.

1997

Australia ARL Implemented: 1997 ARL season.

AustraliaNew Zealand SL (A) Implemented: 1997 Super League (Australia) season.

1998

AustraliaNew Zealand NRL Implemented: 1998 NRL season.

1999

United Kingdom RFL Implemented: Super League IV.

2000s

2001

AustraliaNew Zealand NRL Implemented: 2001 NRL season.

United Kingdom RFL Implemented: Super League VI.

2003

United Kingdom RFL Implemented: Super League VIII.

2004

AustraliaNew Zealand NRL Implemented: 2004 NRL season.

2006

AustraliaNew Zealand NRL Implemented: 2006 NRL season.

2008

AustraliaNew Zealand NRL Implemented: 2008 NRL season.

United KingdomFrance RFL Implemented: Super League XIII.

2009

AustraliaNew Zealand NRL Implemented: 2009 NRL season.

2010s

2010

United KingdomFrance RFL Implemented: Super League XV.

AustraliaNew Zealand NRL Implemented: 2010 NRL season.

2011

United KingdomFrance RFL Implemented: Super League XVI.

2012

United KingdomFrance RFL Implemented: Super League XVII.

2013

United KingdomFrance RFL Implemented: Super League XVIII.

2019

United KingdomFrance RFL Implemented: Super League XXIV.

See also

References

In-line

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General