Law discussion - referee intervention
A referee has things he must do in applying the laws of the game. He must signal a score, stop play when the ball is dead, act on a score, act on a score and protect players from harm when he can. To help him he has a whistle, a set of signals and, higher up the refereeing ladder, he has help from others, such assistant referees, a TMO, a timekeeper and those who regulate the coming and going of players.
His job is in essence to watch the game and to react when necessary to what he sees.
More and more the modern referee is encouraged to “manage” the game, in an effort to reduce stoppages.
We have two incidents of referee activity from the weekend’s Super Rugby match between the Melbourne Rebels and the New South Wales Waratahs, that are worth talking about. They happen between minute 15 and minute 18 of the match.
After Marika Koroibete of the Rebels scores a try, the Waratahs kick off to their left. Michael Wells of the Rebels catches the ball and is tackled by Michael Hooper of the Waratahs. A tackle/ruck ensues with the ball on the Rebels’ side. Scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens of the Rebels, plays with the ball with his foot, and the referee calls: “The ball’s out. The ball’s out.” Alex Newsome of the Waratahs dives on the ball, and the referee, insisting that the ball was out, allows play to go on.
Robbie Abel of the Waratahs throws into a lineout near the half-way line. Rob Simmons wins the ball for the Waratahs who move the ball to the right where the defence is well organised. Michael Wells of the Rebels tackles Tom Staniforth of the Waratahs, and a contest for the ball ensues. The referee is close to the action when Simmons knocks him to the ground. The referee lands on his back while Wells gets possession of the ball and passes it back to Matt Gibbon. Then the whistle goes. The referee stops play, saying: “Boys, I’ve been taken out. I couldn’t see what happened there.” He orders a scrum, Waratahs (“Blue”) ball.
On the positive side, this could be said to enabling players to play with greater confidence, knowing for sure that the ball was available to be played, thus removing uncertainty. On the other hand it sounds like a call to arms, specifically to the Waratahs, and that could be seen as coaching and therefore favouring. It would be different if Newsome had asked the referee if the ball was out and the referee had answered his question.
There is a similar to this – when the referee holds his arm up at a lineout to indicate that the lineout is not over and then drops the arm, telling the defenders that the lineout is over, thereby inviting them to close the 10-metre no-go area.
Surely it is not a referee’s job to help a team.
Not being able to see what happened is surely no reason to stop play. Taken to extremes: “I did not see the pass and so we’ll stop play.”
The referee is required to stop play for an infringement that he sees and is clearly and obviously wrong, not because he did not see what happened. If he did not see anything, certainly anything wrong, play should go on. In a match of this status, he has three others, assistant referees and TMO, to do some looking for him.
Play should have gone on.
He may well have seen that, when he blew his whistle, the Rebels had the ball. The ensuing scrum should then have been the Rebels’ put-in.