Put your hand up if you too are sick and tired of listening to one-eyed fans whinge and moan about referees.
An incident is brewing. The next person to complain to me about a referee, or ask where he is from, is likely to get a swift backhand across the kisser as a knee-jerk reaction. (I’m no heavyweight so it’s debatable whether I’ll survive the reply, but I might not be able to stop myself.)
Forgive me for stooping to much an unimaginative and aggressive level but I’ve had enough. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
The recent fantastic viewing of the Tri-Nations and Women’s World Cup were almost ruined by the tirade of complaints directed at the officials immediately after every final whistle.
No matter what the result, no matter what the score, no matter who was playing, far too many fans were convinced that the referee either had a soft spot for certain players, or was just plain against their team.
Please – enough with the conspiracy theories.
As we’ve mentioned on numerous occasions on this site in the past, serious inconsistencies in the citing and judicial process have not done much for the credibility of those in charge of the game, but that should not be seen as a reason to attack the integrity of referees.
We all need to accept that the men (and women) in the middle make mistakes. Some more than others, but they all make mistakes.
It seems the most common question to follow any complaint about a ref is “where is he/she from?” Does it really matter? My point is, we all need to accept that professional Test referees make mistakes because they are human, not because they have some sort of hidden personal agenda or secret orders from higher powers to favour one team.
Sure, when little Johnny’s U14 side gets a hammering because the ref also happens to be the coach of the opposing side, it’s only natural to lose your temper. I’m also willing to concede that the level of refereeing in many tournaments is not up to standard (the Top 14 springs to mind) but you don’t get picked to be a Test referee without proving yourself over many years.
While complaints about northern hemisphere referees doing duty in the South and adjudicating over laws that were still relatively new to them do hold some water, insinuations that the IRB are secretly pulling strings to favour certain players or teams is simply ludicrous.
While I’m at it, unless you have evidence of David Pocock tying Schalk Burgers’ shoelaces together, Richie McCaw slipping a laxative into Rocky Elsom’s half-time drink or similar heinous crimes, the label “cheater” does not apply. The nature of the laws at the breakdown and the fact that they are open to the referee’s interpretation means that all players will try their luck. Some are better at getting away with pushing the limits than others. It’s part of the game. Credit to them for being smarter, faster and better able to adapt.
Now that I’ve got the ranting out of the way, here’s a request to the IRB. Please don’t fiddle with the laws of the game in the next five years – at least. Much of the controversy we’ve seen in recent times can be linked to the fact that the laws, and how they are interpreted, have changed.
Like players, referees need to time to adjust. Time allows too for benchmarks to be set as players and referees get used to what is and isn’t allowed.
Like players, referees need game time. They are literally expected to make a decision every few seconds and as in any profession, will make better decisions the more experience they have working with specific set of guidelines.
On a similar note, the longer laws remain unchanged, the better players will become in not transgressing them, reducing the role of the man with the whistle, which is what we all want to see.
So, all those two-eyed, objective rugby fans out there, please join me in asking our hot-headed friends and those that administer our game to cut the refs a bit a slack.
By Ross Hastie – PlanetRugby.comTweet