In defence of referees (because someone’s got to)

Sunday afternoon at Widnes was just another Super League game. Tough, uncompromising, entertaining – oh, and the referee got dog’s abuse. As usual.

James Child might not have had his best game at the weekend. But having done a video review early this week, it might well turn out that he did. Take the emotion out of it, and often things look very different.

Whatever the truth, it doesn’t stop the baying mob harassing a young bloke in his workplace.

A young bloke doing a difficult job to the best of his abilities. If he gets a few calls wrong, so what? He’s human – like the rest of us.

Every player makes mistakes every week. Coaches do too. And, away from rugby, we all make mistakes in our own lives.

Do we think we should all be subjected to the same grief Child and his compatriots put up with week in, week out?

No? In that case, why is it OK to dish it out to referees?

Child was barracked off the pitch at half time after a spell in which he gave seven consecutive penalties to St Helens (later he also gave five consecutive penalties to Widnes, but that did not seem to come into it).

Why there is an assumption that penalty counts should be roughly even, I’ve no idea.

Referees make decisions on what’s in front of them. If one team is more ill disciplined, they’re going to concede more penalties. It’s not the referee’s job to keep the infringements more or less equal; it’s his job to referee the action. 

Let’s be clear: this is not a phenomenon that’s exclusive to either Widnes or James Child.

And I know it goes against rugby league’s constant siege mentality, but referees really aren’t against your club.

Honestly, they couldn’t care less who wins or loses. They don’t ‘hate’ your club, carry some grudge from years gone by or are biased to the opposition. They’re just doing a job.

When a referee makes a decision against a team, it has 17 players and 80 minutes to do enough to recover from it.

Can we all just get on with watching the actual rugby instead?

I put it to a Super League coach last week that the only benefits of the controversial dual-registration system go to the Super League clubs themselves. He nodded in agreement, but would not actually say anything on record.

Over the weekend we learned it was Super League chief executives who chose to implement the new system, in direct contrast to recommendations from the RFL.

Two weeks in, the dual-registration farce is already overshadowing the Kingstone Press Championship.

It is a perfect demonstration of why British rugby league continues to struggle to make progress.

First, the governing body is, in large aspects of the professional game, relatively powerless. The elite clubs call the shots.

And secondly, those running the Super League clubs are often too interested in their own problems to ever consider the big picture. It’s a depressing conundrum.

Away from the off-field politics, at least the rugby’s going well. After just two rounds only two Super League teams have 100 per cent records, while all of the ‘Big Four’ have dropped points already.

It looks like it could be a cracker of a season.

Got any thoughts on referees, dual-registration or anything else? Leave them in the comments box below.

You can also follow Neil Barraclough on Twitter @neilbarraclough

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