Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Rugby referees are rare beasts by David Clarke
November 17, 2008, 2:58 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, ELVs, Rugby Refereeing | Tags: , ,

I have spent the last 72 hours picking my way through some seemingly obscure rulings in the IRB rugby laws.

At the same time I have watched four internationals and refereed two games of rugby, plus fielded a couple of refereeing questions.

My conclusion is this. We need rugby referees and we need to look after them.

A “rare beast”? They are rare because of the abuse they receive and thus many are leaving the game. And they are beasts for lots of the connatations you would care to put about them, some good, some because we feel sorry for them and some because they are by no means perfect.

Forget the “bias”, the incompetent, the outmoded and the “non scrum” expert charges. This is why we need to protect the rare beast:

1. The ELVs are different in different parts of the world. How hard is that for an international referee!

2. The interpretations of the ELVs are changing every couple of weeks.

3. The definitions of the breakdown are blurred.

4. The law enforcers are confused, so what hope the players.

5. Too many ignorant people make sweeping remarks when they have poor knowledge and understanding of the game.

6. The error count for players in the game is much bigger than the error count of most referees. The onus is on the referee though should he make even one mistake. Unfair?


6 Comments so far
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In some ways, it matters not what people off the ground say and think, it is the players’ feelings and impressions that are of greatest significance. Coaches have to instil in their players that the stronger/better team almost always wins, and that blaming the referee is almost always a cop out for their own deficiencies. Coaches also have to bite the bullet if they do see anything they do not agree with – negativity is contagious, and the players will pick up on it, and use it as an excuse every time things go against them. Referees ARE usually unbiased, they ARE usually competent for the level they are refereeing, and regardless of the result, most players and spectators will still return to comfortable homes, and eat their meals – in short nobody dies as a consequence of a bad refereeing decision.

Comment by Steve Johnson

In a recent Under15’s schoolboys I spectated game an experienced referee issued two yellow and three red cards to the “winning” team. The cards were issued for “use of hands in the ruck”, “entering the ruck fronm the side” and “going off feet at a ruck situation”. Not once did he issue a genaral warning to teh Captains and only penalised one side.

The Transgressions described are ones we see time and time again even at the highest level of rugby. Which leads me to my point –

The Rare Beast as you call him must have total empathy with not only the game of rugby union but also with the level at which the game is being played.

The pedantic and biased manner this game was refereed ended up in a fight which involved not only the players but also spectators who came onto the field because the Referee could not break it up as he had lost all control and discipline.

Comment by Pedantic Refereeing

The training I recieved in preparation for the ELV’s was almost non exsistent. I watched southern hemispheric games trying to understand how the new laws were being administered. In the first match I called I found out rather quickly that not all the variations were being used in the United States.
I have refereed many matches and I have never cared who won the match. I was there to administer the laws to the best of my ability. Have I made mistakes? Yes. As I tell the young men who I have coached you must play through the referee. He or She is a human being and they are going to make mistakes. We as players and coaches have to overcome them.

Comment by Willie Bruce

I play rugby at the lowest level 3rd team standard in my mid 50s. I take a great delight in the “grey” areas of the laws andalways try to play to the prevailing weather and the referee.
However the ref is someone who has given up his sunday morning so that we get our game.
I have come across good refs bad refs and all in between but never have I met a ref who was biased or crooked. We should cherish our refs and protect them from soccer style criticism and intimidation. Be nice to refs, without them we haven’t got a game.

Comment by A Harrison

Abuse of officials is insiduous and teams often do take a lead from their coaches in their atttitude to referees, particularly in mini/junior rugby. A solution as an official is not to ignore it but to speak to the offending coach or spectator and remind them of the RFU’s spectators code. This tells all players coaches and spectators that you will not tolerate it.
As a coach if you encounter this problems at / with a visiting club consider if you wish to have future fixtures with that club and explain your decision to their fixtures secretary.
I would encourage all coaches with any interest in the game to go on a ELR course as it will not only improve yuor understanding of the job of the match officials but will make you a more effective coach as well.

Comment by mark doyle

As a County Society referee, teacher and coach, it never ceases to surprise me that there is not more understanding of how difficult refereeing is.
It annoys me that in mini/midi, youth and school rugby the quality of the refereeing is often not at an appropriate level for the game. More teacher and coaches need to be better referees. Of course the biased view is more prevelant at these levels, when netural referees are not readily available. Also the difference between interpretations of certain laws, like hand off / fend off is amazing and very worrying.
In adult games the quality shoul be better with Society referees provided for the majority of games, however it is the case that are never enough referees to fulfil the number of games. More players need to think about becoming referees towards the end of their careers.
The refereeing element of coaching courses and the foundation refereeing course also needs a more practical element. This way a better level of refereeing should be achieved across the game.
Within the county societies therer is ongoing training and discussions as to how to apply laws and interpretations.

Comment by J Michaels

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