This week I am going to be looking into the current state of refereeing quality within the British game. I’ve lost count of how many rugby league fans I’ve met who complain constantly about current referees. I cannot understand why there are such a small number of high quality referees within the game. For instance, Ashley Klein has been monitored for a while now and has been previously demoted due to some poor decisions and performances. Many other referees such as ex-official Karl Kirkpatrick and current Super League official Steve Ganson have also gained reputations for giving controversial performances.
The current state of affairs came to my attention this weekend in a number of matches. One referee in an academy playoff game gave a penalty after a player executed a horrendous high tackle on an opposition player. The player then had to leave the field of play via stretcher and needed an oxygen mask to aid his recovery. Obviously, the penalty was given but what amazed me was the fact that the offending player wasn’t even warned. No cards were issued in fact the man in charge didn’t even speak to the player. I can’t understand why only half the punishment was given out after such a severe offence.
Also, in one National League 1 game I observed this weekend the standard of refereeing was again very poor. The official in question looked unsure, unconfident and very unprofessional. He constantly seemed to be seeking reassurance of his decisions, whether it was from his colleagues, the players or the crowd. He didn’t appear as if he felt in control whatsoever. It really makes me wonder when I watch rugby league matches at any level, which I do regularly, when the officials are making huge mistakes or seem very unnerved. It makes me wonder why these referees are being allowed to continue participating when they are so inconsistent. Players taking part in these matches just seem to know that this guy has no confidence in his position as the disciplinarian. I think this can really confuse the players as they can either go in all guns blazing with no regard for the rules because they think they will not be punished, or they can be very wary and lose confidence themselves.
So many people say that the outcome of games cannot be blamed on the officials. I disagree. I believe a huge number of matches I have witnessed over the years could have been completely different had the referee been more confident or knowledgeable. Surely the RFL should be reassessing any officials who make a number of major mistakes in a match? Surely if an official makes a winner-determining, controversial decision it should always be looked into? I’m not saying if it was found to be the wrong decision the match should be replayed, but that particular official should be made aware of it and somehow dealt with. This does sometimes happen as I have seen but I think it needs to happen more often because these incidents are occurring far too frequently. I know in other sports if match officials make controversial decisions, they are severely looked into and dealt with. For instance, a referee will not be involved in the following week’s games.
How can we look forward to a successful, well disciplined competition in years to come when our referees are simply not up to scratch? If the situation continues will rugby league not just build even more of a thuggish, unruly reputation?
It’s a whole different ball game.
She’s a whole different writer.