Referee Matt Cecchin has been accused of ‘unconscious racism’ by a New Zealand journalist after he didn’t send Andrew Fifita’s effort to the big screen in England’s semi-final win over Tonga.
The Cronulla Sharks star went over for Tonga in the final seconds of the game but Cecchin ruled that he had knocked-on beforehand and refused to take the decision to the video referee. England ended up winning the game 20-18 in Auckland.
And journalist Phil Gifford has hit out at Cecchin’s decision with controversial comments.
He told TVNZ 1’s Breakfast Show: “I do think it’s incredibly insulting and demeaning and arrogant of the referee to not go to the television match official.
“Earlier in the game he did it on several occasions and I’ll guarantee that if it had not been Tong, if it had been Australia playing England, he would have gone to the (video referee).
“I also hate to say it, but I honestly believe, and I’m sure the referee is a good bloke and he would be horrified at the suggestion that there’s a racial element to it, but I think that there’s an unconscious racist element to it as well.
“Here’s this Pasifika team, they’re all Pasifika players obviously, and somehow or another, I don’t think they were taken seriously enough.
“That’s a hell of a football team with some of the best Rugby League players in the world and they are up there on the world stage and they were good enough to have won that game.”
He has received a lot of stick since making the comments and over 60,000 people have signed an online petition to have the Fifita effort investigated.