The AFL has instructed its umpires to make a significant adjustment to the 'holding the ball' rule amid criticism from players, coaches and fans.

In a rare mid-season change, umpires are to immediately shorten the "reasonable time" component of 'holding the ball', with clubs informed on Tuesday night.

The change seeks to align the rule with the demands of the Match Review Officer (MRO) and Tribunal when it comes to dangerous tackles, according to Sam Edmund.

"The purpose of this note is to share with you the coaching that our umpires received today on holding the ball clarification and one aspect of holding the ball, which is reasonable time,” the AFL wrote.

“It has become clearer during the season that in discharging their duty of care whilst executing a tackle, tacklers are positively electing not to take tackled players to ground in the tackle, or are generally doing so in a reasonable way, including not using excessive force.

“Consequently, we are seeing players holding onto the ball slightly longer, challenging the definition of reasonable time.

“We are grateful to the players adapting to these rules and also to the coaches for coaching the players to tackle in this manner as it is important that we continue to protect the health and safety of the players.”

According to Edmund, umpires training this week was attended by members of the All-Australian selection committee in order to assist in making the right decisions.

It comes as Gold Coast and Carlton coaches Damien Hardwick and Michael Voss were left bemused by the umpires' interpretation during Saturday's game at Marvel Stadium.

Hardwick alluded to the fact that "131 effective tackles" were made in the post-match press conference, but only four were paid as holding the ball.

Voss was also left confused by the lack of reward for the tackler, saying the Blues would "follow some up".

Essendon coach Brad Scott also told AFL360 on Monday night that: “I think the players are in an incredibly difficult position at the moment.

“The tribunal have clearly said that if you pin the ball carrier's arm like Mac Andrew does here, if he takes him to ground and Charlie Curnow's head hits the ground, that's a dangerous tackle.

“So he can't take him to ground, but he's got to stop him from disposing of the ball so I'm not sure how he does that, it's a real coaching challenge at the moment.”