NRL confirms it will retain 22 referees in 2021

The NRL will continue with 22 referees beyond 2020, Australian Rugby League Commissioner Wayne Pearce confirmed.

The news follows the announcement the league would be reverting to a single whistleblower, in an effort to reduce operational costs post COVID-19. The decision appeared to blindside many officials who are now expected to go on strike in protest.

On Saturday, Pearce revealed to radio station Triple M the same amount of referees will be employed next season. However, there's no guarantee it will be the current 22.

"The same number of officials will be there again next year as a minimum," Pearce said. "That's something we're speaking to the union about.

"Not necessarily the personnel, because if they don't step up, they won't be there again next year [but] they're not going to be cutting numbers in that space."

Pearce also attempted to shed light on how the new-look single official would operate when the NRL resumed on May 28.

"What's going to happen for the rest of the season, given that we've gone back to one referee, is that the referees that were doing centre-field refereeing, that haven't got a game, are going to be doing the sidelines on matches," Pearce said.

"So effectively, what we've got is all our full-time squad running either the centre-field refereeing position or the sideline."