Don't assess officials on scenarios they haven't ruled on, says referee JP Doyle

Rugby Rant: Judge rugby referees on the decisions they make

REFEREEING IN rugby is very complex and on the whole that is understood. Refs will make mistakes and miss offences due to this complexity, whether that is at the breakdown, set-piece or in foul play. The better-skilled and at times more experienced the referee, the fewer the number of mistakes that will occur.

A key part of a refereeing performance is luck! A little good fortune will prevent those mistakes and omissions leading to sizeable impacts on the final outcome. Because asking for a game totally free of these issues is unrealistic.

When it does impact, the referee and their team will understand the criticism coming down the line, but sometimes we can go beyond the mark and start looking at everything that happened during the play. The nature of a contact and evasion sport is that we cannot and would not want to get every infringement. The ebb and flow of the game would cease to be. Focus must be on what is material and has effect – this is subjective and not objective, which is what makes it all the more difficult.

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Coaches and players not involved with the games in question can often see the wood from the trees – they are a step removed from it. But we need to stay mindful that those involved directly love their teams and there can be a prize at stake or a person’s job on the line.

For teams playing, the amount of hard work, training, planning and preparation that goes into each game is immense. Some will have a view that reflects this, so when teams lose, match officials can come squarely into their sights.

“When we critique, we can only speak about what was given, not what was missed”

Media and social media gives many more people the opportunity to voice their thoughts about the referee and their team, but we need to keep in mind that when we critique or ask for consistency, we can only speak about what was given, not what was missed.

There are two truths for rugby referees that will never change. First, what is given or sanctioned on the day is done because it was thought to be correct for the game. Second, what was missed was missed: referees can’t know what that will lead to at the time as it wasn’t seen. Once we accept this, perhaps match officials will be seen in a more understanding light. From this starting point, we need to focus on the play and the players.

Referees aren’t above criticism and there is selection at play for them and their officiating team at all levels of the game. However, we must remain focused on the game, players and play. Referees are important and will always be there to ensure the game is fair, safe and fun. Play on.

This feature first appeared in Rugby World in August. Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.

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