Phil Clarke asks if referees apply the rules or manage the match
Phil Clarke asks if the job of the Super League referee is to apply the rules or manage the match.
Last Updated: 27/03/13 2:27pm
It happened in the game between Hull KR and Castleford last Sunday evening and it made me mad.
Let's begin by agreeing on what the rules in sport are for: they are principally designed to prevent cheating, to stop one team gaining an unfair advantage and provide a spectacle that allows the game to flow.
I appreciate that the rules in rugby league are not perfect and I know that we have a lot of grey areas but this is an issue that had me frustrated for some time; I'd have jumped out of the commentary box to complain if it hadn't been so cold!
The rules committee have decided that when a player does not hear the referees when he calls 'held' in an upright tackle and either offloads the ball or tries to carry on running, then penalising him is too harsh.
The important bit here is that if the referee is of the opinion that the player did not hear him then the player gets another chance and goes back to the point where the ref called 'held' and plays the ball.
However, when a player thinks he heard the referee call 'held' or feels that the tackle has been completed and he plays the ball on the spot, the rules committee have deemed that there is no other way of restarting play other than by giving a penalty to the other team!
I do not agree with either 'rule' and have started to worry that we might get laughed at by other sports.
Firstly, we are making our game look like an Under-7s match when you allow people a second chance when they get something wrong and, secondly, why do we need to penalise the team with the ball? Have they gained an unfair advantage?
If you think about it logically, they've slowed down their own attack. If we are to be consistent here we need to allow the ref to shout 'play on' even if a pseudo play the ball has taken place.
I know that we managed to introduce a new rule a few weeks ago when we banned the shoulder charged mid-way through the season and cannot think of a reason why we cannot do something similar here.
We should not need to wait until the end of the season to sort this out. All of this, though, avoids the bigger issue. Should the referee simply apply the rules or is it best if he tries to manage the game to make it a better spectacle?
I've got a Genghis Khan attitude here and would simply have the ref adopt a black and white mentality: penalise the players if they break the rules and don't give them a second chance or advise them on how to do something.
If they don't get six players to form a scrum, it is not the ref's job to help them. Just penalise them. The will learn. Same goes for play the ball - touch it with your foot or conceded a penalty.
There was a game recently where the score was very close and the team in front had a penalty on the half-way line as the hooter sounded. The referee even suggested to the team in possession how to restart play and end the game by kicking it off the field. Surely that is not his job?
I would love to hear your views on this - I am not looking for comments criticising our referees; that is not what this is about. I cannot think of many jobs which are scrutinised every week as much as a professional referee.
However, what is it we want them to do? Apply the rules or manage the match?
The marines are coming!
The players in the Super League have to go through some pain this weekend with two games so close together and extra sacrifices will have to be made.
It is nothing, though, in comparison to the sacrifices and efforts made by the rugby league players whom serve in the armed forces.
Fatigue and pain takes on a new meaning for the guys who love to pull on a rugby league kit when they are not pulling on their military uniforms.
As well as the World Cup this year, there is also a Defence World Cup taking place in the UK and some of the players hoping for selection will be taking part in an event on Sat 13th of April when Wigan St Patricks - one of my junior clubs - take on the Royal Marines.
The game will be held in memory of Steven Darbyshire and Liam Elms, both played for St Patricks and went on to serve in the Royal Marines before sadly losing their lives overseas.
Good luck to the Marines in this and all the other teams in the Defence World Cup later this year.
For more information on Wigan St Patricks v Royal Marines click here