AFL – Pay the Advantage Rule

I think its time the authorities fixed the advantage rule, as it is certainly one of the most frustrating and contentious aspects of the game. I can’t see any reason to not follow the example set in one of the rugby codes (union I think) where the referee doesn’t always blow the whistle at the first sign on an infringement. If the umpire sees a free kick but the ball is in still in play, he should simply signal the offence by raising his hand – no whistle. (It might be that the umpires carry a small flag or towel?)  Then, after assessing the state of play and, on some occasions, even watching for some time, only blow the free kick at a point where the offending team has gained the advantage or if the ball is being evenly contested. A free that fails to attract the whistle can  still be recorded, but it doesn’t necessarily have to impede the flow of the game. The umpires are wearing microphones, surely the scoreboard could let the crowd know what kicks were paid and the reason.


  1. The practice in rugby union is that the ref holds his arm out horizontally in the opposite direction to the team that has been awarded the penalty, much the same as an AFL umpire does when paying a free. The ref also makes a call of ‘advantage green’ and play continues for some time. Teams often use this period to play speculatively, knowing that if it does not come off, then they will at least get a penalty back at the original spot.

    I think this could work in AFL, but I dont think the play can continue as long as it does in rugby. Perhaps if the next action after the free is unsuccessful, then it could be called back.

    It would take a lot of practice for the umpires to change what would be instinctive behaviour for them. However rugby refs mostly seem to apply the advantage system well – occasionally blowing straight away and other times letting play develop (although northern hemisphere refs always seem to stuff it up preferring to be the centre of attention).

  2. It could work. It would seem that the game is suffering with the rule as it stands. If the ball is in play and a free is ‘noticed’, the immediate call of “advantage”, would let players know there is a free kick, but to keep going at the ball to see if they can benefit.

    The problem will then be when the team who has infringed gets the ball and then boots it as far as possible to set up defence. To that end the umpire could make the call “Advantage black” or whatever the dominant colour is.

    I would like to see this trialled. I can see there will still be ‘grey’ areas, but caouldn’t be worse than what is happening now…

    A few minor points Mark. Referees hold the arm out in the direction of the team being awarded the free or penalty, ie towards the end being defended. And the calls are usually about the incident, ie “Advantage knock on” or “Advantage penalty” so that the team with the ball know whether to take the scrum (better attacking opportunitiy) or go for points (if in front of the posts etc).

    A half back mate was adept at recognising the call at a ruck, would take the ball and deliberately knock on to go back to the advanatge call, take a quick tap, run into a lagging forward and gain an extra 10m or so for his team and/or a penalty when the initial incident was only a knock on. Sly buggers those half backs…

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