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The NRL has today announced it will crack down on visible tattoos in an effort to improve the image of the game, after recent surveys showed the code was suffering in its off-field perception.
NRL CEO Dave Smith said teams would have the rest of the 2015 season to comply with the new code, where no tattoo can be physically visible to anyone watching from the grandstands or on television.
2016 would see the introduction of up to four-week bans for players found to have tattoos showing at any point during a game.
Legitimate tribal tattoos for Maori and Islander players have been deemed acceptable, with additional punishments understood to be in the works for any player without such heritage displaying tribal motifs.
Although the NRL has not named any team or players in particular, the move is likely to heap pressure on the Dragons’ Josh Dugan, the Broncos’ Josh McGuire and the entire South Sydney Rabbitohs side.
Referees have been given authority to police visible tattoos from Round 15, with players to be first cautioned, and then sent from the field to think about their life decisions.
The move comes in response to a survey that named players’ visible tattoos as one of the key issues plaguing the NRL’s off-field perception.
NRL CEO Dave Smith noted that complaints about ‘bogan tatts’ polled highly among survey respondents, alongside other key issues including ‘People who have two first names’ and ‘The Footy Show’.
Smith acknowledged the need to move quickly on matters that impacted rugby league’s perception in the community.
“The rate of increase in God-awful tattoos is quite alarming for us, and we’ve moved quickly to get a squirrel grip on the issue.
“Players may complain about a lack of freedom to choose, but when their choices are that offensive, we are left with no recourse but to legislate against it.
“Andrew Johns and Reg Gasnier didn’t need misspelled psalms permanently inscribed on their leg to perform on the field, so why would modern players?”
— Tabs (@AlexTaberner) May 10, 2013
Isaac John, Issac Luke and Beau Scott are among a number of players expected to have their contracts torn up when the new rules become mandatory in 2016.
Clubs have already made noises in response, with South Sydney appealing the decision to the ACCC, while the Brisbane Broncos have shored up hundred of kilograms of additional strapping tape to cover the offending areas.
Pharmaceuticals company Elastoplast has announced in a media release they are expecting a 400 per cent rise in profits due to the decision, sending shares rocketing.
The ban has likely spelled the end of any possible NRL comeback for Todd Carney, widely acknowledged as the ‘King of the neck tatt’, with the NRL unlikely to ratify his contract unless a mandatory ‘laser removal’ clause is agreed to by the Carney camp.
The Roar attempted to contact Carney’s manager David Riolo about the issue, but he was understood to be well entrenched in a marathon session at Bondi Ink.
The Australian Rugby Union has welcomed the move, confident that the level of spelling, grammar and artistic value in their players tattoos is of a far higher standard.
The AFL’s Anti-Ink Tribunal has found that there was insufficient evidence to sustain that any of the 34 players under investigation actually had ‘shit tatts’.
This is an April Fools joke, but you already knew that, didn’t you?