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Intrusions and the ref

A growing concern

For the third week we have had problems with unwarranted interference by non-players with a match in progress.

Rugby has endured the intrusion of streakers from Michael O'Brien in 1974 with a policeman's helmet to provide modest cover through chesty Erica Roe in 1982 and on to the Vodafone pair of Brett Mutton and Aaron Bain at Telstra Stadium in 2002.  Those are not the intrusions we are concerned with here. Those are not the intrusions we are talking about, nor the political demonstrations of Springbok tours in apartheid times or IRA people in the early Seventies. We are talking of officially employed people who interfere with the game and the running of the game.

We are also looking at refereeing actions.

In New Zealand when Wairarapa-Bush played Buller in an NPC match, they had a mascot ion the touch-line – Rory the Stag. His antler cut the cheek of one of the touch-judges and the referee ordered him off. Rory left with an "obscene gesture" flung the referee's way.

The next week Rory the Stag was back with a different body to carry the head – but back on the side of the field.

There are other roaming mascots – a Shark in Durban, a piratical sailor in Auckland, a Bull in Pretoria and a Lion in Johannesburg.

The week after Rory's intrusion that the referee stopped the match to tell a burly physio not to talk to his touch judge in that way. The physio was on the touch line next to the touch judge at the time.

A reader asked about it in our Law Discussion that week.

The touch-line on that side of the field, the "far side", was cluttered with team support personnel – physios and water carriers, most of them probably just messengers. One of them was Os du Randt.

On Saturday in the Currie Cup final, two players were indulging in some nursery school wrestling when on came a physio, Basil Carzes, in his uniform to get involved. One of thew wrestlers was Os du Randt, the water-carrier of the week before. The Carzes tugged at the Cheetah prop who at that stage had the upper hand over Danie Rossouw of the Blue Bulls. Eddie Fredericks and Ryno van der Merwe of the Cheetahs then sought to pull Carzes away.

This incensed the Blue Bulls' bench who ran onto the field.  This incensed the Cheetahs' bench who ran onto the field with Ollie le Roux in the aggressive van.

This time the referee called the physio to him and told him to keep off the field or risk being expelled. The Carzes was contrite and apologised. The referee then dealt with the players.

The Carzes was not, it seemed, on the field with any aggressive intent but just to separate the players, which is not the point.

The referee seemed to acknowledge that when, with remarkable calm, he said to Carzes: "I don't want to have to eject you from the field but obviously that's not acceptable. Don't get involved on the field. Don't get involved on the field. You've got a job to do. Stick to your job."

Was the referee entitled to eject Carzes from the field.

Touch judges will tell of the abuse they receive from physios/medical personnel/water-carriers.

So we have cluttered touch lines – physios, medical personnel, water carriers/message bearers and cameramen.

Does the referee have jurisdiction over all of them?

In written law there is nothing much that gives the referee jurisdiction over anybody but the players, except for the following:

Law 6.A.4 (f) The referee gives permission to the team doctors or medically trained persons or their assistants to enter the playing area, as and when permitted by the Law.

(g) The referee gives permission to each of the coaches to enter the playing area at half time to attend their teams during the interval.

And Law 6.C


The match doctor and the non-playing members of the team may enter the playing area as authorised by the referee.


In the case of injury, these persons may enter the playing area while play continues, provided they have permission from the referee. Otherwise, they enter only when the ball is dead.

There is just this on intrusion:


The referee judges what would have happened next and awards a try or a touchdown at the place where the ball was touched.

The only other folk he has a say over are the touch judges:


The referee has control over both touch judges. The referee may tell them what their duties are, and may overrule their decisions. If a touch judge is unsatisfactory the referee may ask that the touch judge be replaced. If the referee believes a touch judge is guilty of misconduct, the referee has power to send the touch judge off and make a report to the match organiser.

There may be little in law but there must be something in commonsense and in the management of matches. For one thing a referee has an obligation of care of the players which is contained in the Laws of the game.

 The people who are first responsible for the management of matches are the union under whose jurisdiction the match takes place or the club on whose field the match is played.
 They need to regulate what happens on the touch-lines with people beholden to them.
 If the Western Province employee runs onto the field to hug players who score, he should be told to stay away.
 If a mascot is anywhere near play, he should be told to stay away, though it is unclear why a mascot is necessary.
 If a physio/medical officer/water-bearer misbehaves he should be sanctioned.
 In any case those people should not be on the touch-line.
 Cameramen, too, should be regulated.
Soccer manages clean touch lines. There the touch judge goes about his duty unhampered by any additional people.

It seems a grievous pity that the technical area was done away with. That is where medics and replacements can be housed. Then they do not interfere with officials and players and they do not, a la Derick Hougaard, play the ball to nullify the chance of a quick throw-on.

But, teams say, what about the far side. It is better if we have people there to see to players' needs more quickly. If that is the case then a technical area is possible there, too, though it does not take all that long to cross a field.


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