Refs have a difficult enough job

Steve Ganson wants to be able to referee St Helens matches. That’s understandable: the Saints reach a lot of finals which Ganson is unable to referee. Why? Because he’s from St Helens.

The RFL rules are that a referee cannot officiate in a game involving his hometown team. This is to prevent accusations of bias if a contentious decision is made by the referee in favour of that team. Ganson argues that the rule is unfair; referees ought to be trusted.

Where Ganson has a point is that referees are not biased. Doubtless there have been instances of bias over the 112-year history of a game, but generally speaking the referee does not have an agenda as to which team wins. Ganson’s only agenda here is his desire to referee major finals.

But, even taking that into account, referees are bound to be subjected to accusations of bias, even if they’re not biased. Coaches and fans alike shoot their mouths off after a game where their side perhaps hasn’t had the rub of the green, and accusations are bound to be bandied about.

It already happens in instances involving the video referees: Ben Thaler, for example, is the Wakefield-based referee who disallowed three Harlequins tries that allowed the Wildcats to earn a crucial win over their London opponents. Certain things were implied after that game.

Now, it’s very doubtful that Thaler really did cheat, but it’s surely not right to place him in a position where he could be accused of such. Perhaps it would be better if the restrictions on refereeing your hometown team were extended to video referees.

Even if a referee is not openly biased, refereeing a team in which he in some way has an interest can cause difficulties. Karl Kirkpatrick – a Warrington fan – once admitted he found refereeing Widnes games difficult. And when he inevitably ruled controversially against the Vikings the accusations of bias followed.

For an honest referee, how are we to expect him to rule a crucial 50/50 call in a match involving his own team? Perhaps he might be swayed to rule against his own team, urged on by the thought of correcting his own subconcious bias.

Referees have a hard enough job without having to deal with that sort of thing. And as for Steve Ganson? Let’s hope St Helens miss out on a major final soon, so Ganson can do another excellent job refereeing on the big stage.

[b]Play-off race heats up[/b]

The race for the play-offs in both Super League and the National Leagues is going to mean an exciting few weeks. In Super League, there are perhaps four teams still in contention for two spots; in NL1 one mid-table side will miss out; in NL2 it’s anyone’s guess what the six will look like.

Warrington and Huddersfield are probably the favourites to complete the top-six set in Super League. Wakefield have got three away games coming up, and their away form has been lacking this season, while Wigan will need to get a win over St Helens to stand any chance of a play-off place.

Last week in NL1 Dewsbury and Sheffield fought it out in a crucial encounter, the Rams earning an important three points. This week in NL2 we’ll see a similar thing when London face off with York, and the week after Warrington go toe to toe with Huddersfield; exciting times.

[b]Big crowds for NL2[/b]

Speaking of London Skolars’ game with the York City Knights, the north London-based club are hoping to sell out New River Stadium for the first time. Officials hope that, like last year, fans in London for the Challenge Cup final will sample a piece of NL2 action.

Any fans who go along surely won’t be disappointed with a game so crucial to who will earn that play-off place. Oldham are hoping to do a similar thing next Thursday when they face Celtic Crusaders, with just £1 entry for the game at Boundary Park.

The money raised by that game will be going to charity: half to the RFL Benevolent Fund and half to Dr Kershaw’s Hospice. Hopefully they’ll get a bumper crowd for the Sky TV cameras, and lots of money for two worthy causes.

[b]Keep Your Eye On Rugby League[/b]

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