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JK's final whistle: Looking forward

The current emphasis on decisions to be 'clear and obvious' is dangerous as it means that some forward passes are not being called.

There were two incidents in Test matches on the weekend which saw tries awarded despite passes which appeared to be forward, this is problematic as it creates confusion amongst the public.

Australian flyhalf Bernard Foley and England wing Jonny May both scored tries after receiving forward passes.

Foley got a pass from his scrumhalf Nick Phipps at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff and May scored at Twickenham against Samoa after getting a pass from fullback Mike Brown.

Both decisions were referred to the TMO and both tries were awarded on the basis that the respective passes had not clearly and obviously gone forward.

I think referee managers need to take a step back and understand that the concept of 'clear and obvious' as opposed to common sense needs review.

The concept of 'clear and obvious' often takes referees into a comfort space where the public are excluded from it. So what appears obvious to the public is not obvious sometimes to the officials.

Sometimes referees are not making calls because they fall back on the excuse that it is not clear and obvious.

Who are the referees serving? Are they serving the game when they do things under the premise of clear and obvious as opposed to what the general expectation is?

I would say that most rugby people would be comfortable with calling the pass from Phipps forward, and that is what we have really got to consider.

If we do everything according to what is technically correct then there is no game. Somewhere along the line you have to ask what the customers want.

The players on the field want consistency and the public want to be able to understand what is a forward pass and what isn't. If you get these kinds of decisions it confuses them.

I can't see the public wanting this constant confusion about what constitutes a forward pass.

I think the officials have gone too far with trying to condone these forward pass decisions and I think they need to come back a little bit.

The referee managers need to look at what the reason behind doing this in the first place. If it is helpful then that is great, but I don't think it is because the public are continually confused about what constitutes a forward pass because there are seemingly obvious forward passes that are overlooked.

You never apply the letter of the law completely because that doesn't encourage a game at all.

Look at the players and their reaction, look at the crowd, look at a few things.

It is about game understanding and trying to find a way to marry the framework of the law with the game that unfolds in front of you.

We want the game to be easy for the public to understand, and not just for the referees to have their own little game interpreting the laws.

Most of the stakeholders can see that those passes were forward, they want them to be adjudicated correctly but they are not getting the results that they are looking for.

It is the whole emphasis on 'clear and obvious' which is a very dangerous concept to use.

By Jonathan Kaplan


For more of Kaplan's views visit his website Rate the Ref



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