THE AFL has on Tuesday written to clubs communicating an adjustment and clarification to the Protected Area 50m penalty adjudication when there are two players from opposing teams who enter the area together.

The rule has always permitted a defending player to follow their opponent into the protected area provided they are within 2 metres of each other.  In the instances where a “split” occurs and the defender continues to run through and clear the protected area, the umpires will no longer pay a 50m penalty in these circumstances.

The defender still needs to vacate the protected area immediately – and not delay or linger.

AFL Head of Umpiring Dan Richardson said the adjustment will come into play this week as there had been an unintended exploitation of the rule in recent weeks.

“The protected area rule is designed for the kicker to have options to move the ball,” Richardson 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.”

RULE 20.1.2 (B)

No player shall enter and remain in the protected area unless the field umpire calls “play on” or the player from the opposing team is accompanying or following within 2 metres of their opponent.

Any player caught in the protected area must make every endeavour to immediately vacate the protected area.

Players may follow their opponent through the protected area as long as they are within 2m of their opponent. The umpire should be alert for the player with the ball playing on immediately following a free kick or mark being awarded and subsequently call “play on”. Players must make every endeavour to immediately vacate the protected area.