Colombo Telegraph

Abuse Of Rugby Referees: What Happened At The Rugby Sevens Was Not Acceptable By Any Stretch Of Imagination

By Arthur Fernandez

Arthur Fernandez

The future of any sport lies in the strength of the junior game. In rugby, the cradle without a doubt is the school rugby that feeds on to club rugby and then to the National level. Thus, it is important that at this level we get the basics right. It starts with the imparting of the necessary skills by qualified coaching staff who have a passion to deal with and nurture youngsters. All up-to-date rules of the game must be followed and enforced at this level. The quality of the refereeing must also keep pace and introduction of basic technology is a must.

Sadly at present, we lack some of these basic prerequisites. The various coaching staff must also be taught to accept the decision of the referee and following on, the spectators cannot be permitted to take the law into their own hands when decisions don’t go their way. The media must also play its role in fair, fearless and unbiased reporting despite their various political or school affiliations. Thus what happened at the SLRFU sponsored rugby sevens was not acceptable by any stretch of imagination and what happened after the Science vs. Peterite game was distasteful as well. Two such incidents in a span of six days, is absolute sacrilege.

Constructive criticism is a valuable tool, provided there is no underlying ulterior motive, and it helps in the development of the person and the game / organisation. The recipient will accept the criticism, when the credibility of the person dishing out the advice is beyond doubt, and the intentions are not personal in nature. Thus the incident after the Science vs. Peterite game was poor on many counts. The language used on the match officials belonged in the gutter and the veiled threat indicating that “we sorted one referee out the week before and we will sort out this referee this week” was akin to what happens in a failed state where there is a total breakdown in basic law and order. If such incidents continue, it will only be a matter of time before the top quality referees in our country will stay away from the game and only the second best who are willing to bear the brunt of such gutter language will undertake to officiate at a game. The schools rugby union needs to stand up and take notice, before this deteriorates further and we reach a point of no return.

The Science vs. Peterite game dished out some fast and open rugby, no doubt aided by the prevalent cloud cover. Science ran the ball wide on every single occasion and found the Peterite defence lacking and with a great unwillingness to tackle. The Petes missed numerous tackles and Science cashed in with glee. The ball handling skills of Science was great, as was their support play and their kicks ahead were with vision and purposeful. The Petes on the other hand were clumsy in their moves, indecisive on most occasions and the forwards slow to the breakdown point and looked a beaten side at the end of the first half.  The second half saw them play with greater purpose and the fact that were able to snatch a match winning try on the stroke of full time was a result of some individual brilliance as opposed to team work. It was pretty gut wrenching for the Science lads to be beaten in the last minute of the game as they had dominated proceedings for almost the entire length of the game. The man of the match to my mind was the omnipresent Science No. 8. His appetite for honest hard work, skills exhibited at reading the game in attack and defence was a treat to watch. Science did not deserve to lose this game and the controversial try scored by the Petes in the dying moments of the game will continue to haunt them.   The referee on the day was poor in his handling of the game. On numerous occasions both sets of three quarters we spotted offside, there were hands in the ruck, crooked throws at the lineout all of which went unnoticed. The two flag waving assistant referees did nothing to help the referee other than indicating the point where the line out should take place and on one occasion indicating a high tackle. Thus one can empathise with the mood of the spectators when their side was beaten in the last minute but one cannot agree to the course of action adopted in order to seek redress. There is an established process to air a grievance and this must be adopted in all instances. The game has become too intense because of the stakes on offer and the very spirit of the game is often ignored.  Is it then time to go back to the past where the schools only played friendly games in the true spirit of the game and the traditional encounters had more relevance? Will this then kill the competitive spirit? I am not sure that I have all the answers, but the current format is only helping breed a set of uncouth youngsters as opposed to law abiding citizens. The spirit of rugby must be preserved by all those entrusted with administering the sport lest it becomes a game for hooligans.  In other school games Trinity continued on their merry way by beating SACK, Royal overcame some nervous moments while they finally got past the Joes. Kingswood got the better of the Pathana lads, and a gallant Wesley side lost to Dharmaraja who are playing some excellent rugby this season. If one remembers, they drew with Trinity in the early stages and a rematch will be a mouth-watering delight worth going a long way to watch.

Courtesy Daily FT

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