Blood rule splits fans

Tuesday, August 13

THE AFL's controversial blood rule has been under the spotlight this year but football fans are split on whether it should be relaxed in 2003.

Responding to the Great Addy Footy Survey, 43 per cent of people surveyed said it should be relaxed while 47 per cent believed it was working well and should remain as it stands.

Ten per cent of respondents were not sure.

The rule was introduced in 1994 to reduce the risk of HIV and other blood-borne diseases being transferred between players.

While infection could occur, club medical staff say the risk through contact on the field is small.

The AFL rule states that any player with blood on his body or clothing must leave the field and cannot return until bleeding has stopped and all traces of blood have been removed.

The AFL has moved to relax the rule after complaints from coaches and growing medical evidence that the odds of contracting an infection from minor cuts is minimal.

The league's football operations chief Andrew Demetriou said earlier this year that the game was being held up for unnecessary periods because umpires had no choice but to send off players however minor their abrasions.

If the push to have the rule amended next year goes ahead the change would eliminate an estimated 30 per cent of players now being sent off for blood-related incidents.

A revamp of the rule would also prevent excessive time-wasting when a player is sent from the field and is expected to be altered to allow bloodied players to leave the field over the boundary line closest to them, rather than via the interchange area.

The rule was brought sharply into focus last month after an incident between Collingwood's Nathan Buckley and Geelong's Cameron Ling.

Buckley was reported after he wiped his bloodied brow on Ling's jumper, forcing both players from the field. Buckley was suspended for one match.

Meanwhile, respondents to the Addy survey were also split on the standard of AFL umpiring.

It would be hard to get too many fans to say a good word about the men in white, but at least 44 per cent agreed the standard had neither improved nor deteriorated this season.

But 44 per cent of respondents said it had gone downhill.

Only 15 per cent said it had improved.

The AFL did get it right when it increased the minimum kicking distance from 10 metres to 15 metres this year, according to the Addy football poll.

Fifty-eight per cent of respondents said it was an improvement to the game while 28 per cent said it wasn't. Fourteen per cent said they were not sure.