A mid-season rule change has taken place.
The AFL has written to clubs, communicating an adjustment to the Protected Area 50m penalty adjudication.
The rule has always permitted a defending player to accompany their opponent into the protected area, provided they’re within two metres of each other.
In the instance of a split of defender and opponent, there will no longer be a 50m penalty awarded.
The defender still needs to vacate the protected space immediately and not delay nor linger.
AFL Head of Umpiring Dan Richardson revealed the adjustment is set to come into play immediately.
“The protected area rule is designed for the kicker to have options to move the ball,” he said.
“It is having the desired effect, however there have been more and more instances of players deliberately running their opponent into the zone with the intention of getting split and / or drawing a 50m penalty.
“If this ‘split’ of players happens, providing the defender moves to vacate the area, the umpires have been instructed to no longer apply a 50m penalty.
“Feedback is important, and we continually listen to a whole range of stakeholders, and this clarification will provide opportunity for the rule to be applied as intended.”
The rule comes as an additional hurdle to community umpires who are facing a shortage of staff.
In some leagues, such as Eastern and Outer East, a 25m penalty is the sanction for Protected Area and Dissent infringements.