As we prepare to head into the New Year, here are seven resolutions referee’s can make in order to significantly improve the game for fans and players…
1.Stop going to the TMO over every call
When you genuinely cannot see if a try has been scored, by all means go to the TMO to get it checked. However, let’s stop calling for video replays of a potential marginal forward pass that happened 12 phases before the try was scored. Rugby can be stop and start enough as it is without endless periods of waiting around on the TMO. Fans want to see teams playing rugby, not referees reviewing marginal decisions.
2.Stop penalising scrums just for going backwards
An increasing trend in rugby has been for referee’s to penalise a pack that is simply going backwards in the scrum. This is frankly ridiculous! If one pack is significantly stronger or more talented than the other then inevitably they will get a drive on. Until someone deliberately collapses or wheels a scrum then simply allow it to be driven backwards, the team in reverse aren’t actually doing anything wrong by being overpowered.
3.Start actually penalising for crooked feeds
All the talk at the beginning of last season was for referee’s to start penalising the crooked feed at the scrums. It seems this directive disappeared almost as quickly as it came about. This is a key area referee’s need to focus on, as although it may temporarily cause some disruptions, scrum halves will quickly catch on and we will begin to see scrums become a genuine contest once again.
4.Don’t always assume a maul collapses because it was pulled down
It seems every time a maul goes down these days the referee pulls up the defending team and awards the attacking side a penalty. Sometimes a maul simply collapses under its own weight, or because players trip over one another. Let’s stop assuming that someone always has to be guilty when a set piece goes to ground.
5.Actually enforce time limits
Whether it be the one minute kickers supposedly have to take a penalty/conversion, or the five second limit for playing a ball at the base of a ruck, referee’s need to enforce these time limits. This is becoming an increasing issue in the dying minutes of a game when the team in the lead will drag out every maul or kick as far as they can – let’s at least give the trailing side a fighting chance.
6.Clamp down on the footballing culture
It may not be commonplace but there have been a few incidents recently of players diving or brandishing fake cards in a bid to win penalties and get players sent off. This has to stop immediately or we risk following the path of football where there is a total lack of respect throughout the game. Referee’s should start carding players immediately for any such behaviour to ensure it is stamped out before it becomes an issue.
7.Try to remember that rugby IS a contact sport
For the most part this isn’t an issue, however on occasion referee’s seem a bit too keen to penalise players for the odd scuffle or an overly physical hit. The reality is that rugby is a hugely physical game, and at times scuffles will break out, and people will mis-time challenges. By all means penalise players deliberately trying to hurt others, but don’t be penalising players in marginal situations.
What do you think referee’s should focus on in the New Year?