Does rugby have a problem dealing with referees?
The days of amateur era home town refereeing are over. At least in the professional game! Referees are human, they make mistakes. I think we can all agree that those mistakes are not due to bias.
This season, there have been a number of coaches who excessively criticised the referee after games. Sale coach Steve Diamond, for example, is now serving a 6-week ban for comments about the referee. In this article, I will use Michael Cheika as the main example. Unfortunately, Cheika, in this case, is merely illustrative of a wider issue.
Michael Cheika is well known for his displays of emotion during games. Unfortunately, in Australia’s defeat at the weekend, he used the word cheat. On camera. About the referee. Ironically applauding the decision wasn’t a great follow up act either. There is a difference between expressing frustration and what Cheika was doing.
Cheika feels wronged over the disallowed tries for Michael Hooper and Marika Koroibete, as well as the Elliot Daly score. However, his anger should be directed at the silly mistakes made by his team. Kurtley Beale should have made sure the ball was out. Instead, he jogged across, allowing Daly to get there first. Hooper should have made more effort to slow right down before he went for the ball. Stephen Moore should have run a wider and deeper support line. Instead, he got in front of Koroibete, who ran into him.
Professional rugby referees are generally outstanding at explaining why they made their decision. Players and coaches may disagree, but they know exactly why each call was made. More and more, coaches are complaining about the referee instead of addressing matters within their own control. It needs to stop.
There is no problem with a coach who says he disagreed with a decision. Especially if he explains his reasons. However, there must be no public suggestion from the coach of bias or incompetence.
Cheika had every right to explain why he thought those decisions should go differently. He had no right to publicly call Ben O’Keef a cheat. Those who use the referee as a scapegoat for the mistakes of their own team are damaging the sport. Cheika is only the latest example of a disturbing trend.
Author: Daniel Pugsley
I am a 31 year old from Yorkshire, England. I have played social rugby for 25 years in England, Japan, Italy, Poland and the UAE. I teach English as a foreign language, which explains why I’ve lived in so many places. I recently moved back to England and have had to take a break from playing, but I hope to pull on the boots again soon.