Leeds Rhinos boss Rohan Smith was unaware that his side would have a video referee in place for their meeting with Warrington Wolves tomorrow until Love Rugby League informed him of it, but he’s delighted that’s the case.
In fairness to the Rhinos chief, who spoke to us on Thursday afternoon, the decision to stream the Round 22 fixture live on OurLeague had only been announced a day prior, and that’s the only reason an extra offical will be in place.
Regardless, Australian Smith couldn’t have been happier to find the news out. In his home country, NRL games all have video referees, and he thinks that should be the case over here too.
Rohan Smith on video referees
The 42-year-old told Love Rugby League: “I’ve never had any correspondence about that, but if that’s the case, then it’s a good thing.
“I think any competition that’s professional needs to have at least some level of replay facility for key moments. It at least minimises the risk of a howler [from the officials] which might cost a team. That’s a positive step.”
Smith continued: “I’m not aware of criticism [for officials] other than on some of the decisions that I’ve seen in the video ref this year already.
“Sometimes, for them, it’s difficult to see if there’s been enough evidence to overturn, so us having a video ref in place this weekend can only be a positive thing, definitely.”
OurLeague coverage continues
Sunday’s game at Headingley will be the fourth Super League fixture so far this year to be shown live on OurLeague, the RFL’s official streaming platform.
All three of the previous ones have involved Hull FC, with the Black and Whites’ two games against Salford Red Devils this term being broadcast on there followed by their home clash against Catalans Dragons back on July 1.
Accordingly, both Leeds and Warrington will be making their debuts on the streaming service this weekend, the fourth and fifth Super League clubs to have been shown behind the OurLeague paywall.
Leeds and Warrington have both featured on OurLeague previously, including Rhinos’ annual Boxing Day meeting with Wakefield.
The issue with the service itself is obvious in that it’s cheaper to pay for a streaming pass than it is to physically go to the games shown on there.
Full price tickets for Wire fans this Sunday cost £24 to stand at Headingley, and it’s £32 each if you want a seat. An Earlybird pass for the OurLeague service, which includes a half-hour build-up pre-game, costs just £6.95. Even streaming passes bought on the day of the game are just £10.
Video referees at every game in Super League from 2024?
Opinions surrounding the service, which also shows games in the lower divisions and last weekend broadcasted the 1895 Cup final at Wembley, aren’t all doom and gloom though.
Some journalists earlier this season reported that the Super league games being streamed live on the OurLeague service in 2023 were being used as somewhat of a guinea pig by the RFL with a view to having a video referee at every top-flight game from next year, as is the case in the NRL with the ‘bunker’.
Games streamed on the platform earlier this year required a six-camera setup, though this weekend at Headingley only five will be in action.
Broadcast journalist ‘The Gamecaller’ tweeted last month: ‘I’m hearing that as part of the new #RugbyLeague broadcast deal, every Super League game next season will have a video referee as the RFL implement an NRL-style centralised bunker.
‘This is a positive move and one which has been a long time coming. Great work from the RFL. I’m hearing there are concrete plans to bring this in using the Our League coverage as a base. I’m certain it would be possible with 4/5 cameras.’
The man in the middle at Wembley for the Challenge Cup final last weekend, Chris Kendall, is the video referee on Sunday at Headingley. Ben Thaler will take centre stage for the Rhinos’ game against the Wire.