NRL bans mobile phone from dressing rooms
In a move to shut down possible communication between NRL players and gamblers, mobile phones will be banned from dressing rooms on game day.
Channel Nine television footage has in the past shown players who have been injured during games, speaking on mobile phones. Such footage has sparked integrity concerns that an injured player could talk to betting agencies, or big punters, keen to know whether the player will return to the field.
In reality, the players are probably speaking to family members, possibly allaying fears of a serious injury, but half-truths, like half-bricks, travel further in NRL land, which is always keen to hear the negative connotation.
Coaches have embraced the ban, relieved that players will not be communicating on social media in the minutes before a match.
Given the distractions of social media and the small psychological and tactical advantages coaches seek, mobile phones are a continuing source of frustration. However, it is understood the NRL is introducing the ban solely for integrity reasons. Some players’ incoming texts could be inquiries from gamblers keen to know the starting team which, traditionally, an NRL club was only required to post one hour before the match.
In an allied move, NRL clubs will be required to name a squad of 21 players on a Tuesday, with two players to be deleted on the eve of the final training session. A squad of 17 must then be announced in the standard one hour before kick-off.
This is designed to prevent a club from ambushing an opponent with the unexpected return of a big-name player to the starting team. Betting agencies will welcome the latter move because of complaints from punters that they often lodge a bet early in the week and are also blind-sided by key, late changes.
While gambling outlets pay lucrative product fees for fielding on NRL teams and are required to co-operate with the NRL on integrity issues, they are entitled to complain their client teams sometimes deceive them with information.
Only four mobile phones will be allowed in an NRL dressing room – belonging to the club doctor, the football manager and two designated personnel. Players often use mobile phones to listen to music in the dressing room but will be able to access this via digital audio devices.
A possible mobile phone ban was raised last year with suggestions players would be forced to deposit them with club security before entering the dressing room but this is unlikely.
Rather, it’s anticipated self-regulation will apply, with coaches the co-operative policemen.
The ban and the new protocol regarding team changes will be tabled for approval at the next meeting of the ARLC on January 31.