I don’t know if it’s just me but these days it seems that the ref is going upstairs (as in asking for a video review not off for a quick hand shandy) every couple of minutes.


Perhaps there’s some new rule for refs that we haven’t been told about – maybe they’ll have to go and officiate for Askean Dukes (the rugby equivalent of Siberia – or at least it was when I played for them) if they get anything wrong.


Nowadays just about every time they are not sure of something they ask the TMO to stop watching ‘Cash in the Attic’ or pause Solitaire and look at his video monitor.

Thank fuck we didn’t have a TMO when I played – our refs rarely had a clue as to who was supposed to kick off much less the off-side rule (whatever that is) – so we would have spent most of the time waiting for a third official decision and a game would have lasted something like three days. I’m exaggerating of course – we were lucky if the ref turned up, the chances of getting some other poor sod to check on who punched who would have been up there with finding Lord Lucan riding in the National on Shergar.

This is how I imagine a Dukes game might have gone if we’d ever had the misfortune to have a TMO. It might even be the sort of thing that we could see on a TV screen in the not too distant future if the referrals carry on being used every two minutes –

The ref signals to stop the clock – even though it hasn’t started yet. He makes an exaggerated rectangle sign with his hands (he looks like he’s playing a game of charades) – the players protest that they’d prefer him to mime a film.


Ref “Can you hear me in the box?”

A small picture appears in the corner of the screen and we see a bloke hurriedly putting down the Racing Post and a pastie

We hear a muffled response as bits of pastry tumble down his chin

TMO: sighing “Yes I can hear you – what now?”

Ref: “Can you just confirm this for me – I’m concerned that it’s not been flattened properly”

The camera zooms into the ground in front of the ref and we see that a coin is laying at a 60 degree angle on the grass

TMO: “Just checking” He shakes his head and picks up the paper again – forgetting he’s still in that little box on the screen

Ref: “Also can you go back a bit – I’m sure I gave him a pound and this looks more like a 20p coin”

TV Commentator 1 “An early bit of controversy Sebastian – it looks like the ref may be 80p out of pocket”

TV Commentator 2: “Yes Tarquin nice soft hands there – I didn’t spot the Captain’s misdirection until the third replay – a very nice dummy”

TMO: Not looking up “I’ve checked it from several angles and I can’t really tell if it’s heads or not”

Ref: Ignoring the increased restlessness of the crowd “No hurry”

TMO: Disgruntled he now looks at the video and eventually responds “Well Simon we have a problem, it appears that he’s nicked a gold coin from his kid’s stocking and I have no fucking idea which side is which”

Ref: “The bastard – I gave him a fucking pound coin – that thing will melt if I put it in my pocket now”. He scowls at the home captain and growls into his mike “Recommendation?”

TMO: “How the fuck should I know – you’re the bleeding ref”

Ref: muttering “Fucking jobsworth”

“Right – penalty try to the visiting team”

This turns out to be a smart decision as the home crowd pelt him with coins and he ends up one pound 53p, several drachma and a couple of roubles to the good. Which is just as well since no bastard is likely to buy him a drink in the bar afterwards.

Among the things that the TMO could be asked to adjudicate on in the future are likely to include –

‘Singing the anthem without due care and attention’

‘Running around in loud and flamboyant boots’

‘Having an offensive haircut’

‘Showing a Maori tattoo when you come from Wigan not Wellington’

‘Messing up the colours on the pitch advertising’

‘Possessing dangerous and inappropriate facial hair’ (except in November)

Of course this won’t leave time for tip tackles, forward passes and tries to be considered – so maybe we should just let the ref do it – especially since that’s his fucking job after all!