IRB rulings to stifle talking back to the referees

This could be interesting … especially in the overly-chatty men’s game. Via an e-mail forward, but available here too.

Referees act on backchat
From Stephen Jones in London
October 30, 2006

THE chat show is over, with rugby to ban the discussion of referees’ decisions by players during a game, beginning with the Test between Australia and Wales in Cardiff on Sunday (AEDT).

From this weekend, nobody in Test rugby, not even the captain, will be allowed to dispute or query a penalty awarded against his side. The offending side must retreat 10 metres immediately. If it does not, it will be marched back another 10 metres. The captain may clarify the decision only when the game next stops for injury or at the next downtime.

International Rugby Board referee manager Paddy O’Brien is the driving force behind the changes, which are bound to be copied throughout the game. His actions reflect a welcome change at the IRB, through which its experts are being allowed to flex their muscles.

O’Brien will address the international referees panel in London tomorrow night, and hammer out the policy.

“I will be telling referees that they will have to get across the message to both camps before the game,” O’Brien said.

“They will be saying that when I penalise your side, I am not going to change that decision. The only time I will debate with you is at an injury stoppage. International rugby is the shop window and it is time things changed.”

This is a procedure that rugby, with its old policy of respect for the referee, once followed meticulously. But, increasingly, any whistle is now the starting point for an often barking debate. Backchat and dissent have become the norm.

Many pundits also believe this is a factor in a general loss of respect for refereeing that manifests itself in dissent from players, coaches and crowds at all levels.

“You often see two or three players running towards a referee after penalties have been awarded,” O’Brien said.

“Many people think the captain has a divine right to question every decision, but there is nothing in law to justify this.

“What happens sometimes is players who stop to argue are deliberately delaying the game and stopping the quick penalty.

“I will also be insisting that if touch judges see players throwing up their hands to complain, that penalties are awarded.”

If referees have the courage and the support to apply these measures strictly, rugby may become healthier, quicker, quieter and better almost overnight.

The whole area of preventive refereeing – in which communication between referee and players is supposed to improve the game – is up for review.

The ceaseless babble itself is now off-putting.

“I watched one game on the television last year and the referee was so noisy that I had to go into another room,” O’Brien said.

The role of the television match official will also change radically, and will result in more tries being awarded.

At present, the referee simply refers disputed touchdowns to the official.

“From now on,” O’Brien said, “you will hear the referee ask, ‘is there any reason why I cannot award this try’?”

This is significant.

If, as often happens, the evidence is buried among a pile of bodies, the benefit of the doubt will no longer go in favour of the defending team.

– The Sunday Times

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Filed under International Rugby Board, referees

2 responses to “IRB rulings to stifle talking back to the referees

  1. Ashley

    “I will also be insisting that if touch judges see players throwing up their hands to complain, that penalties are awarded.”

    I think this part is a tad extreme…players in most sports react to bad calls with some sort of physical reaction being throwing up hands or shaking heads or other actions that don’t interfere or directly interact with the game itself.

  2. Lisa

    This interesting at the International level, where its’ being applied to stop what has been escalating and needs to be controlled.

    If enforced at the lower levels, where players are still learning the game, it could be problematic.

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