It’s an old adage: the man in the middle can make or break your game. Across many sports, referees continue to be a bone of contention.
It’s a subject I try to stay clear of in all honesty, to start lambasting the Referee feels like you’ve lost the battle but as we’ve seen in Super League this season; there are inconsistencies that the RFL must address or our fantastic game could quickly become farcical. Forward passes, endless Video Referee referrals, poor control of the ruck, the list is endless and repetitive in nature. The only consistency is the inherent lack of it. It’s perfectly understandable that fans should feel the need to vent; after all seeing the same errors of judgement unfold week to week is infuriating. However, it is also tedious to hear individuals adopting the same attitude about the subject. So, you might be thinking, for all this rambling, how do I actually think we can resolve this refereeing debacle?
Easier said than done when you’re pitched in the middle of a Derby Good Friday battle but we need to change the mentality towards Refs. As frustrating as it is when you receive a poor call in a game, constant criticism isn’t going to necessarily encourage new figures to come forward.
I was reading an article regarding amateur football and it’s the very culture of threats and abuse towards Referees that stops them from following such a career in a professional capacity. From a logical aspect, the more officials we can develop in our game the more we can select from for matches.
As it currently stands if Robert Hicks (I’ll use an appropriate pantomime figure from this weekend) has a poor game, is he dropped? The answer is unlikely. We simply don’t have the depth of officials to do this. In an ideal world you would be able to treat your referees like a squad, with the ability to pick your strongest team for that particular weekend. Those that are dropped would naturally return the following week wishing to showcase an improved performance.
Critics may be quick to point out that the RFL wouldn’t be able to sustain such an incentive, would we have the interest in the game to attract new officials? I would suggest that most fans would be happy to ditch some of the more decorated aspects of our game for a better standard of officiating.
The much questioned Super 8s format, the Qualifiers, Million Pound Game and League Leader’s Shield; attractive on Sky cameras they may appear but what’s it worth if the games were decided by a poor standard of refereeing? It’s time for Nigel Wood to gather the Red Hall ‘Bigwigs’ to focus on this important issue and put some money into the fundamentals of our game. If such an incentive actually developed and we had a wealth of officials in our game, the next step would naturally allow us to have two referees like our NRL counterparts in Australia.
While Refereeing standards simply are not up to scratch, we also have to broach the issue of the changing pace of Rugby League. There’s no doubt the speed of the game has increased, a far cry from the part-timers of bygone eras, is the NRL two-Referee set-up something we should consider? It could become a viable option if we could invest in our quality and quantity of officials.
Some would suggest until that point it’s time our much-maligned linesmen became more involved in the game. In this day and age, should they be missing a blatant forward pass? The answer is no but it continues to occur.
It seems to be something that’s debilitating Super League as a whole. There is a danger if standards continue as they are that we will alienate a dedicated group of fans. With that in mind, how can we wish to project our game to newcomers when it’s often ran in such an amateurish manner? It’s food for thought but a topic all too often brushed over by pundits. Rather than setting incentives, goals and areas to focus on, do we need a complete overhaul of a failing system? If we continue to approach the issue with the same attitude, nothing will change the cyclical decline of officiating standards.