Law discussion: Twin trouble
EXCLUSIVE: rugby365 law guru Paul Dobson looks at what was described as: "One of the most ridiculous decisions you'll ever see."
The Blues of Cardiff play the Scarlets of Llanelli at Cardiff Arms Park. There are brothers playing in the match - Steve Shingler for the Blues, Aaron Shingler for the Scarlets.
From a ruck, the Blues go left as Tomos Williams gives to flyhalf Steve Shingler. Steve Shingler grubbers but the ball ricochets off the boot of Aaron Shingler. The Shingler twins, Steve in blue and Aaron in red, and Williams chase after the ball. They are close - Williams first, Aaron second and Steve third. As they get close to the ball, Steve in blue tackles older brother Aaron in red though Aaron does not have the ball.
The referee blows his whistle and brandishes a yellow card as he sends Aaron in red to the sin bin. Aaron looks to protest but then goes off.
The referee got the wrong twin.
The infringement was tackling an opponent who does not have the ball in his possession.
Law 10 (e) Playing a player without the ball is dangerous play.
Sanction: Penalty kick.
That is what Steve Shingler in blue did.
The referee was clearly more interested in the face than the colour of the jersey but in this case the brothers looked somewhat alike!
What can be done in such a case?
First of all, the game goes on and the score stands.
Law 6.A.4 (a) The referee is the sole judge of fact and of Law during a match.
That does not mean that whatever the referee did or decided becomes right - that forward passes go backwards and so on. It means that there will not be the appeals and debates, which went on tediously before 1896.
But something could have happened at the time.
The referee clearly made a mistake - just a mistake, not malicious, not out of spite or bias. But he is part of a team of three. He had with him two assistant referees and a TMO. One assistant referee and the TMO were the referee's Scottish compatriots, the other assistant a Welshman.
All three of those people - assistant referees and the TMO - were in radio contact with the referee. The TMO could have said his "Check, check" call to alert the referee. There was certainly time enough and replay enough for all to pick it up that there was mistaken identity.
Remember that playing a man without the ball is foul play and so we quote law on consulting with the other three in a matter of foul play.
Law 6.A.7 Referee consulting with others
(a) The referee may consult with assistant referees about matters relating to their duties, the Law relating to foul play or timekeeping and may request assistance related to other aspects of the referee’s duties including the adjudication of offside.
Law Amendment Trial
(b) A match organiser may appoint an official known as a Television Match Official (TMO) who uses technological devices to clarify situations relating to;
(v) Reviewing situations where match officials believe foul play may have occurred.
(vi) Clarifying sanctions required for acts of foul play.
(c) Any of the match officials including the TMO may recommend a review by the TMO. The reviews will take place in accordance with the TMO protocol in place at the time.
(c) says that the other three may recommend that the referee looks at the incident again.
The protocol in place allows for suggestions to the referee of a review.
From the Protocol
4. Potential acts of foul play
4.1 The match officials may suggest that the referee refer the matter to the TMO for review if they observe an act of foul play (prior to the next restarting play)
• There is doubt as to the appropriate sanctions to be applied.
4.2 If the referee agrees to refer the matter to the TMO he will indicate that he wishes the TMO to review the potential act(s) of foul play and to make a recommendation as to the appropriate sanction(s).
The referee is human and should not be surprised if he makes a mistake, no should other people be surprised. There is no need for there to be an embarrassment in setting this to rights by calling Aaron back and sending Steve away. Owning up usually meets with approval, and a small embarrassment may save a larger one.