The inconsistent approach to refereeing games that’s ’embarrassing’ for Super League

James Gordon
Video referee decision

Picture by Allan McKenzie/

Hull KR coach Willie Peters hit out at the ’embarrassing’ lack of video referees at non-televised matches following his side’s defeat to Catalans in France at the weekend.

Unlike the NRL, where every game is televised and thus has access to the video referee, Super League is still limited to having the extra official for games that are broadcast live.

That is typically the two games shown each week by Sky Sports, though can sometimes stretch to three if there is a live game on Channel 4 or in previous years when Catalans are at home.

Implementing the video referee at all games has been on the agenda for several years, but the costs are believed to be prohibitive.

Back in April 2021, then acting Super League executive chairman Ken Davy proclaimed that the video referee and big screen could be at all games from 2022 as part of the new two-year Sky Sports deal.

However, that didn’t happen, and instead clubs were counting the cost of a sizeable reduction to the previous broadcast deal.

It remains to be seen whether any deal, which would come in to place for the 2024 campaign, will mean more games have access to the video referee.

Lack of video ref is a player welfare issue

Speaking after their 38-4 defeat to Catalans, Peters bemoaned incidents that may otherwise have been treated differently had the game been televised.

He said: “We were beaten by the better team tonight and I don’t think anything would change the result but some of the high tackles we saw against us needed a further look.

“It’s embarrassing that we can only make video referrals in TV games, it has to be rolled out across the league.

“What I don’t understand is that we’ve got a tool that we can use on TV but not in other games. Were those incidents today send-offs? Were they sin-bins?

“We need to have a good look at it, it’s a player welfare issue.

“I don’t understand that we can do that one week, but not the next. We need to do something about it as a game.

“There were a couple of incidents in the game that we need to have a really good look at.

“Things happen in a game that need to be dealt with immediately in the right sort of way.

“Catalans played extremely well, I’m not blaming any of that for the result, but once we lost Jordan (Abdull) we lost our cohesion and looked a little bit lost.

“Video referrals wouldn’t have made a difference to the result tonight but it might have put us in a better position from which to do so.”

All games are filmed for disciplinary purposes, and some of that footage is sometimes used to provide clips from games during the televised coverage.

There is also a requirement now for clubs to have live feeds for doctors and medical teams to assess the head injury situation.

Some have suggested that the video referee could be in place even in the absence of a big screen, which has previously been the case in Championship matches, while the recent Challenge Cup match between Halifax and St Helens had the video referee in place but with no big screen. There was instead a small TV screen only visible to TV producers.

But given that televised matches can have no fewer than nine cameras, there would be a significant difference between the angles available for televised matches than not, which would make implementing it league-wide without the full TV production counter productive.

The costs of being able to do that for every game across the whole season could reach up to £1m.

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