So let's get one thing straight. There are no new tackle laws and we grass roots referees haven't changed how we referee them. Premiership referees have been asked (told?) to reaffirm this area.
Let me explain what the law says:
There are four kinds of people at a tackle area:
- The tackler
- The tackled player (ball carrier)
- The non-tackler (more about him later)
- Other arriving players
If the man who brought him to ground also goes to ground, he is a tackler.
If the man who brought him to ground does not go to ground himself (i.e. stays on his feet), then he is NOT a tackler (I am going to call him the non-tackler), but a tackle has still taken place, because the ball carrier has been brought to ground and held. (so we can have a tackle, without a tackler).
Anyone else arriving after the tackle has taken place is an "other player".
So what are we referees looking for?
- I want to see the tackler (or non-tackler) release the ball carrier and get up or move away from him immediately.
- I want to see the tackled player pass or release the ball immediately (there's that word again). He must then get up or move away from the ball.
- I want to see anyone else arriving coming through the gate and staying on their feet.
Where the problem lies is that the tackler has been getting to his feet and then tugging at the ball, without ever having released the ball or the ball carrier (remember that as a tackler he does not have to come through the gate after he has released and got to his feet). Everyone then shouts "he's holding on sir". They are right of course, he is, but what was the first offence? The first offence was the tackler not fully releasing.
So this brings us to the current phrase of choice by many referees. "I want to see daylight". What they mean by that is that the tackler must release the ball and the ball carrier completely, while getting to their feet, before they then go back in to grab the ball. If they do this and the ball carrier then fails to pass or release the ball, they will get their penalty for holding on.
Finally, remember the "non-tackler". The man who brought the ball carrier to ground, but stayed on his feet. Because he is "not" a tackler, he must come through the gate. So if he is on the wrong side of the tackle area he must release and then come round the tackle area to come through the gate. He usually doesn't do this so gets pinged for "coming in the side", or "not coming in through the gate". Which usually attracts the cry "but I was the tackler"!
Moving forward from this we have the situation of "The Jackler". I will save this for another post.