Rugby league’s governing body has changed the way play-the-balls will be policed starting this season.

The RFL’s laws committee, which includes players and coaches from all three professional competitions, match officials, the media, sports medicine and other administrators, unanimously accepted a proposal to change the wording of the rules regarding play-the-balls.

The proposal stresses the responsibility of the tackled player “to maintain balance and control and make a genuine attempt to make contact on the ball with the foot”.

It will also be the tackled player’s responsibility to place the ball on the ground at their feet and not on a defender – and a failure to fulfil any of those requirements will be ruled a lost ball (not a penalty), leading to a scrum.

The responsibility of defenders is also detailed, in a number of ways, including as follows: “No tackler should make an adjustment on the tackle or leave hands or body in the play-the-ball area after the tackle is complete. Referees should act on any interference once the tackle has been called”; “Tacklers who ‘clamp’ the ball and keep their hands/arm on the ball when the ball carrier is standing up should be penalised”.

Other significant changes which have been approved include an automatic sin bin for striking, teams having a limit of just 30 seconds to restart at a scrum and 25 seconds for a drop-out, the introduction of golden point extra-time in the Championship and League One, and a requirement to declare 21-player squads.

The RFL’s Dave Rotherham, who coached Workington Town and Haven, said: "We start every season with the aim of ensuring the game is safe, entertaining and fair.

"In the first few rounds of 2019, it was widely agreed that gamesmanship at the play-the-ball was causing much angst among players, coaches and spectators.

"After consulting with head coaches mid-season, they and the match officials worked well to tidy up the ruck.

"This revised policy will hopefully ensure that we start 2020 with fewer grey areas – that is why we have waited until after the pre-season meeting to inform spectators and the media of the law interpretations that will be applied in 2020.

“During their pre-season visits to Super League, Championship and League 1 clubs, match officials have provided support and guidance, emphasising a number of key areas, and especially the play-the-ball, which is a crucial area of the game, and a major focus for coaches and their players.

“Coaches and players are represented on the laws committee, as well as a number of distinguished former players who are now in administrative roles, and we thank them all for their contribution to the discussions."