Wanted: Quality and professional referees

Friday, 14 November 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

In the past week the local rugby scene has been plagued by referee-related issues. Over the past few years, with the amount of cash being introduced into the system, I had opined that we need to get our act together. This was to ensure that quality referees are appointed to officiate at the club games. Alas, our worst fears have come true as we read the various reports of referees failing the beep test, and referees being switched at the whims and fancy of certain clubs. As of now, there is a certain degree of reluctance, of the rugby fans to throng the matches except for key games, and the issue of incompetent referees officiating at club games will only make matters worse. It is also bound to have long-term repercussions as the cradle of Sri Lankan rugby without doubt is the school scene and we will see lesser numbers wanting to continue the game as they will see no future on the game. In addition, many believe that certain teams have been politicised as done in other areas of society, and this does not augur well for the smooth and transparent development of the sport. Thus, the need of the hour is to have a competent panel of referees, who have been subjected to a stringent physical test as well as an examination on the rules of the game and the interpretation of the same. Very often we see inconsistencies in the interpretation and application of the rules. Whilst in certain instances it could be genuine errors, in other cases it has been construed as wilful. The refereeing at the CR/ Havies game last week was simply atrocious, and the referee needs to be sent back to the classroom to grasp the fundamentals of the game. The support team of the referee was also found to be woefully inadequate, with the assistant referees and the other match officials bungling matters big time. The height of incompetence in the game in question was when one of the teams was permitted to have 16 players on the field of play, albeit it being for a brief period. The error was discovered only when one of the players found that there was no place for him to bind in the scrum. If there is a dearth of quality referees, then there must be a firm plan of action to get the correct people into the system and provide the necessary training. Thereafter they should be gradually introduced into club rugby after having done a stint in lower grade games/practice sessions. If not, we will still be at square one, this time next year. In the interim, we need to import referees, at a cost to ensure that the games are officiated with a degree of professionalism, with the accent being on training the local referees. There is also a school of thought, that some quality former players who are interested in handling the whistle are reluctant to do so, given the high levels of interference and nepotism. This is a classic example of whether it is my problem, your problem or our problem. The sooner that all stakeholders get their act together the better it is for the game. If not, we will definitely see a slow death of this wonderful sport, which has over the years enriched the lives and stature of many a corporate leader. May sanity and common sense prevail, sooner rather than later, and let all the various factions unite so as to reap the benefits of a clean and professional game. (The writer can be reached via scrumaf@gmail.com.)