NRL referees have been blasted as "selfish" for allegedly threatening to strike.
And the game's top administrator has also accused them of putting thousands of jobs at risk, saying industrial action would be an act of sabotage.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys is standing firmly by the decision to scrap the two-referee system employed for the last decade.
The referees' representative has denied a direct strike threat but V'landys has gone on the front foot, quickly painting his top whistlers in a bad light.
He would not reveal his contingency plan but a former referee predicted the NRL would use officials from the New South Wales and Queensland competitions.
V'landys told the Daily Telegraph: "Obviously it's disappointing they have chosen this course of action when the game has already suffered so much.
"Right now, we're at a juncture where the whole viability of the game is at stake.
"So if they were to strike, they would be sabotaging the game.
"They could be hurting thousands of participants in the rugby league industry."
The referees union is fighting the decision to re-instate the one-referee system, when the NRL resumes next week after the COVID-19 lockdown.
They filed a complaint with the Fair Work Commission, with conciliation talks set for Tuesday.
Professional Rugby League Match Officials chairman Silvio Del Vecchio would not rule out industrial action by the 22 NRL referees.
But V'landys appeared baffled by their stance saying none had lost their jobs in a move designed to make league more "entertaining" and save money.
"I don't think they would get any sympathy whatsoever ," he said.
"It would be risking the game's future.
"Any sporting organization should have the right to (decide on) the rules and procedures. If the game is becoming less of an entertainment product, naturally we have to change the product to ensure that we get the revenue so we can pay the refs."
Former first grade player and referee Luke Phillips suggested the NRL would use the threat of replacement referees to bring the top whistlers into line.
But he warned that there were good referees in the lower competitions, the jump in pace would make it hard for the substitutes and their presence would be to the "detriment" of the game.
And Del Vecchio said: "Driving a car looks really easy until your 17-year-old son or daughter gets in a car for the first time."
State of Origin coach Brad Fittler has also attacked the refs, calling the threat of a delayed start "ridiculous".
In response to that, Del Vecchio said: "At no stage have we said we're striking."