Giving yellow cards, the red card

Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Original Content on 30 Jul 2010 at 12:01
Tagged with : , , ,

When did rugby stop being a contest? Or why do we have laws in place to effectively end a contest between two teams where the spectators and fans feel the effect of a yellow or red card more than the players?

I heard an interesting remark yesterday and it got me thinking… When a player transgresses on the field of play and receives a card, who are we (read officials) effectively punishing, the team losing the player, or the spectators watching the game?

First off don’t get me wrong, ill-disciplined or foul play should be dealt with and the transgressors punished – but as things stand currently the way we go about this seems to punish the viewing audience more than it actually does the team…

Rugby is essentially a game where 15 guys on the field of play competes with 15 other guys or opposing players to see who is the best.

Officials, laws and interpretations of laws are there to ensure the contest is fair and that the team who eventually leaves the field as the winners, has done so being better than their opponents.

Laws are constantly tweaked in the game of union to ensure the contest between two sides are fair, and this in essence is what we as supporters or the viewing audience would like to see.

Rugby is also a professional sport, reliant on these factors to ensure they deliver a product to its viewing audience that is of the highest quality, but more essentially, a contest that is fair.

Under the current laws if a player transgresses through repeated, cynical or foul play offenses they run the risk of being carded. Yellow they are sent off for 10 minutes, red they miss the entire match.

The question then remains, if we alter the contest to such an extent that the one team has such a significant advantage over another team, is it still a contest and essentially, what is the point then?

When you alter the playing numbers on any side the contest disappears almost completely. It is unlikely a team reduced to 14 or less men will dominate or be able to compete against a team of 15 men. Strategies, game plans and tactics are completely altered in the team whose playing numbers were reduced not to mention the highly likely scenario that they will concede points in that period thanks to a disadvantage in player numbers.

Also, the point is really to punish the offending player is it not?

How much punishment is really given to such a player if he only takes a 10 minute break? If he is not cited in addition to being punished on the field that player is available for selection the very next week.

So who is really getting punished? The player, or the viewing audience?

Firstly, I do not want to see the game or rugby union end up as a lob-sided affair where there is no fair contest and secondly, if we are to punish offending players let’s do a proper job of it and really punish them by hitting them where it hurts most – their pockets…

Would it not make more sense if we are to keep a record of incidents in the game of rugby which is only reviewed post-match with sanctions being handed out there? These sanctions can include suspensions and even fines imposed on players and teams depending on the severity of the incident. We can still punish serious offenses on the field of play if the transgressions were clear to all on-field officials where deliberate and serious dirty play can result in a direct sending off, but what I would like to see eliminated is the guess-work that goes into the current procedure practiced where on-field officials are not afforded television replays to assist them in making decisions which alters the outcome of a match drastically, or as mentioned, effectively ends it as a contest.

Post match reviews are also done with much less emotion, and more time to evaluate a possible transgression by individuals who are not influenced by in-game scenarios such as home crowds (dare I say big screen repeats) as referees are being subjected to currently. It might also just elminate the complexity of the sentence handed down where we can get greater consistency.

The dynamics of on-field sanctions can also be altered to be more severe without ending the contest. For instance for dirty play, no matter where on the field, the team or player concedes a penalty on their 22-meter line. For deliberate and repeated or cynical foul play by the offending team in the red-zone the on-field officials can decide to award a non-goalable try (5 points only) or the option to the opposing team of a penalty in the center of the 22-meter line or where the offence took place in the red-zone.

But essentially, no team is put at the disadvantage of inferior player numbers and the viewing audience can still look forward to a fair contest.

Subsequent to the match decisions are reviewed post-match as it is currently done and if further sanctions can be imposed on the player, or even the team through fines and suspensions, it is done here. Teams will not only feel the effects of foul play much worse than is currently the case by losing the services of the player(s) in question, but both team and player will also suffer financially through a fine-based system imposed on either with the player also losing out of any future match fees.

It has become clear that we will never be able to remove the human element of referees in union, for that very reason we will always have inconsistent decisions made by officials.  The easiest or most logical solution is to remove that responsibility from the referee who only has one shot at viewing an incident and making a call – in essence removing what is largely guesswork from the officials.  Guesswork which can and does influence the outcome of a match and a contest.

The point of laws and sanctioning of players is to clean up the game of rugby and make it fair and I agree with this 100%, but let’s raise the stakes for teams and players without putting the viewing (and paying) audience at a disadvantage by ending the game as a contest.


  • I don’t know if I agree with this, Morras. Must say, from a spectator’s point of view, I find the added excitement that cards add to the game quite thrilling. There’s nothing quite like that “edge of your seat” feeling when you have to watch your team defend manfully for 10 minutes with a guy in the bin. And saying that a team can’t win with fewer numbers is wrong – we’ve seen it countless times. The Sharks at Loftus in the 07 Currie Cup was my favourite 🙂

    Rugby is a team game and it’s important that players realise how their individual actions can let the team down. What I would prefer would be for a mandatory TMO check before the ref can issue a card. This, in fact, could work both ways… if you had a disciplinary officer watching the game and compiling stats in real time, he could then be the one to decide when and if a player should be carded, rather than the ref.

  • Comment 1, posted at 30.07.10 12:19:41 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 1) :

    Those are the exceptions, not the rules.

    I have specifically left out on-field TMO influence as its biggest criticism is time wasting.

  • Comment 2, posted at 30.07.10 12:22:05 by Morné Reply
  • Rob I tend to agree with you on this one.
    How are you going to control a team like the Bulls if you cant send them off the field?

  • Comment 3, posted at 30.07.10 12:24:07 by Uli Reply
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    Uli Boelie
  • @Uli (Comment 3) :

    Last 5 paragraphs. On-field sanctions still in place, stricter and more severe post match punishment to add to this where players are suspended for long(er) periods.

    Perhaps a football system even, yellow card but no sending off. X amount of cards over a period or even one game results in automatic suspension blah blah blah.

    Point is quite simple from my side.

    Getting players sent off ends the contest in my view, and the game is all about an equal contest.

    Must be better ways to punish foul and dirty play.

  • Comment 4, posted at 30.07.10 12:29:39 by Morné Reply
  • I am in favour of cards too…if you stuff up, you need to go off.

    There has been a lot of debate about this on SR – where they say its not a fair contest etc if guys are chased off and yo uplay against less people for a period of time. Why did they chase shit on in the first place ( :mrgreen: )…let them pay, and if the other team manage to score points – the better – that is GREAT punishment in itself!

    Rob – that 14 man win at Loftus would be one of the greatest experiences…we were there. And saying to (a half empty) Loftus crowd (as they started leaving about halftime) – we BEAT you, at LOFTUS, with FOURTEEN men!! PRICELESS!! 😈 :mrgreen:

  • Comment 5, posted at 30.07.10 12:35:47 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • “remove the human element of referees in union” – How could you remove the “human element” of referees. last time I looked, Kaplan and the rest of refkind were a part of mankind. (Oirish refs in kiwiland notwithstanding)

    Also, are there non-human refs in league as opposed to union…

    …Musings of a confused soul…

  • Comment 6, posted at 30.07.10 12:36:06 by HG (Heavens Game - not the sponsor) Reply

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  • @HG (Heavens Game – not the sponsor) (Comment 6) :

    It has become clear that we will never be able to remove the human element of referees in union, for that very reason we will always have inconsistent decisions made by officials.

  • Comment 7, posted at 30.07.10 12:41:17 by Morné Reply
  • I agree with you some what in the fact that this needs to be looked at. Half of me enjoys the cards in game, the other half despises it. Refs of late have been making far too many decisions that are in fact mistakes. I don’t have a problem with refs making the occasional mistake – it does happen – but when the mistake is giving a player a yellow card for an offence where a penalty is more than sufficient, is something that needs to be looked at deeply. The game in most cases becomes one-sided for 10 minutes.

    Your suggestion of an immediate penalty on your 22m line for dirty play paves the way for match-fixing. Instead of sending the player off when a yellow card is handed out, a penalty kick could be given that is worth 5 points. Or something where the attacking team can be given an immediate advantage, without the 10 minutes sin-bin for the offending team.

  • Comment 8, posted at 30.07.10 13:20:24 by hungrybeaver Reply

  • @hungrybeaver (Comment 8) :

    There is bound to be much better suggestions like mine above, anycase I am off, enjoy the weekend, ciao ciao.

  • Comment 9, posted at 30.07.10 13:33:35 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 9) :

    Didn’t mean for that to sound snotty 😉 I think we all love this sport so much that we want the absolute best for it without taking away what makes it great, and making it a fair contest for all.

  • Comment 10, posted at 30.07.10 13:45:08 by hungrybeaver Reply

  • @hungrybeaver (Comment 10) :

    No absolutely not mate, not taken as a snotty remark at all no worries.

    I read another nice suggestion where it said still send a player off but sub him so you have equal numbers.

    Point is there must be better ways to deal with it and mine is but one suggestion and there are bound to be more and much better ones!

  • Comment 11, posted at 30.07.10 13:51:11 by Morné Reply
  • When a team gets a YC I have no issue with it from a specatator point of view. IF ANYTHING it provides MORE excitement becasue their is invariably a try when one team is down to 14 players and the other has 15.

  • Comment 12, posted at 30.07.10 14:11:36 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 12) : yo… can you do the match threads? 🙂

  • Comment 13, posted at 30.07.10 14:19:35 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 13) :

    Can do.

  • Comment 14, posted at 30.07.10 14:27:02 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • I like Morne’s ideas… the only change I’d suggest is that the infringing player does get sent off, but he can be subbed with someone off the bench (if a team keeps infringing eventually they’ll have no one left on the bench and then they’ll be a man down for the rest of the game from that point).

    That way the actual player in question is at least punished immediately, and as Morne suggests he can be cited after the game and punished further if the offense dictates that.

    I feel a sending off tends to do more damage that what the infringement was preventing… at best if the player hadn’t infringed the opposing team would have scored a 7 point try… so that should be the maximum benefit, with as Morne suggests, a penalty try if the infringement was in the red zone.

    Even if a team can hold on to minimise the damage during the 10 minutes that someone is off, usually the effort to do that causes the players to be so buggered that it’ll definitely affect them for the rest of the game.

  • Comment 15, posted at 30.07.10 14:33:40 by CS Reply

  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 14) : thanks… you’re so much better at it 🙂

  • Comment 16, posted at 30.07.10 14:49:23 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 16) :

    😳 😛

  • Comment 17, posted at 30.07.10 14:51:50 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @robdylan (Comment 16) :

    I cannot believe KSA fell for that one! 😆

  • Comment 18, posted at 30.07.10 14:56:06 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @CS (Comment 15) : What if you want to replace that specific player anyway? Don’t you think the more cunning teams will exploit this.

    A team can win and lose a player for 10min…happens all the time. In fact after that 10min, the game opens up a little, because no player wants to be sent of, and the ref has then sent a clear message.

    I actually sometimes feel like ref takes way to long to use the yellow. (Accept in the case of dangerous or foul play, which in my opinion should not be punishable by card, since it has no influence on the game.)

    When a player or a team starts offending repeatedly. They take the contest out of they game, they slow the ball down, they put their hands on the ball, go of their feet, go offside, or any other offense that puts the other team at a disadvantage. The team should be warned and the next player to offend sent of, and then the team should stand on a yellow card, meaning if the ref gives the team another card for the same offense they will lose a player for the rest of the game.

    I think teams who like to use cunning tactics to put their opposition at a disadvantage, would be much less inclined to do so, if they know the risk they are taking…and even if you get players sent of unfairly sometimes, you might just see much fewer penalties dealt in a match.

    As far as dangerous tackles and foul play goes, it does not have an effect on the game as a whole. If you want that player of the field, which he probably should be after his dangerous tackle or after punching a player, then replace this player with a reserve and don’t allow him back on the field.

  • Comment 19, posted at 30.07.10 15:01:04 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Ice (Comment 18) :

    I didn’t fall for anything, he just knows that i am more sarcastic than him 😆

  • Comment 20, posted at 30.07.10 15:02:50 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @CS (Comment 15) :

    the only change I’d suggest is that the infringing player does get sent off, but he can be subbed with someone off the bench

    So then the infringing team benefits from the YC because they now have a fresh player on the field. ❓ ❓ ❓

    There is nothing wrong with the system the way it is. Why must the system that has been the same for how many years be modified.????????????


  • Comment 21, posted at 30.07.10 15:05:11 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 20) :

    also if someone else calls a ref a doos I take offence. When I do it it’s acceptable. 😛

  • Comment 22, posted at 30.07.10 15:06:00 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @Ice (Comment 18) : he is my lifesaver.

    i HATE doing match threads

  • Comment 23, posted at 30.07.10 15:07:21 by robdylan Reply
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  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 21) :

    I agree!!!!!

    @robdylan (Comment 23) :

    Geez, but you are syriping him up, ne?? 😆 Lifesaver?? Bwahahahahaha

  • Comment 24, posted at 30.07.10 15:10:39 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Letgo (Comment 19) : I guess what this thread has shown is that there are as many good ideas as there are fans… 🙂

  • Comment 25, posted at 30.07.10 15:11:43 by CS Reply

  • @CS (Comment 25) : 🙂

  • Comment 26, posted at 30.07.10 15:53:48 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Ice (Comment 24) : at varsity I was known as “the man with the golden brain and the silver tongue” 🙂

  • Comment 27, posted at 30.07.10 16:42:35 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 27) : 🙄
    and yr wife hasn’t cut it and and sold it for big buks 😉

  • Comment 28, posted at 30.07.10 17:15:25 by chaz Reply

  • Gee this Morne can right does he do this for a living or what he should write storys in books

  • Comment 29, posted at 30.07.10 17:16:28 by chaz Reply


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