We are on the cusp of a new season: the seniors have been warming up with friendly games, new law changes are being discussed and the new age grade regulations are upon us. There are a number of new ideas and concepts to come to terms with, but let us not lose sight of the core values of our game:
Teamwork – Respect – Enjoyment – Discipline – Sportsmanship
Those of you who read the Disciplinary report that was submitted to the AGM of the Union this year will be aware of the concerns that are swirling around the game with regard to player and spectator behaviour at our matches – at senior and at junior level.
Last season more than one third of the red cards issued by the NLD referees were for dissent or abuse of match officials. This is an unacceptable, upward trend. It should be remembered that our match officials are all volunteers and that they are on their own – they don’t have the benefit of live touch judges (assistant referees to use the modern parlance), or of action replays from ten different angles. They get one shot at decision – any one of maybe four thousand decisions they will be computing during a game. They take on the roll to give service to the game and they are in search of enjoyment from a continued involvement in our game. Give them the respect for that; and maintain your discipline as players and spectators alike.
We are all aware of the “monocled” (one-eyed individual), ill-informed loud mouths who maintain a running commentary as to the performance and parentage of the referees – let us unite in discouraging such individuals. We all go out to enjoy an afternoon of sport; we don’t need the sometimes offensive behaviour. Some officials are more thick-skinned than others: some just ignore the “noise”, others take it to heart and it undermines their concentration, and adversely influences their performance. Some are moved to give up refereeing altogether. We wouldn’t make the comments that are made in any other context – why does a touch line give us license?
The Disciplinary team has asked the Referee Society members – referees and assessors alike – to feed back their impressions as regards player discipline and spectator behaviour at their games. They will continue to penalise dissent and abuse according to the Laws of the Game in the normal way. The additional information provided will be used to monitor our clubs and possibly to form the basis of sanctions against offending members.
The RFU has introduced changes to the age-grade rugby in our clubs. The emphasis is more on skill development and personal development with the younger players. Let us recognise this and help them to learn the core values and appreciate their worth – it is surely because of these values that so many are attracted to our game. Let us collectively discourage the parents amongst us who seem to believe that winning is paramount, from applying pressure to achieve this end. Let us all encourage teamwork and sportsmanship – let our children see that by being self-disciplined and respectful they can derive far more enjoyment from their games on Sunday mornings.
Because of the restructuring of the Junior Game the referee society will not be as great a source of information about clubs as they have been in the past. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the clubs to “police” this situation themselves. We would ask you to sign up to this idea and actively discourage “unnecessary” behaviour and comment. Again, the game officials are amateurs and have not necessarily have the benefit of the great deal of follow-up training that goes to society members.
Since the first draft of this message to you, we have had the first red card of the season – issued for match official abuse – the use of foul language addressed to the referee. In this case, the referee is one of the more senior, experienced officials in the region, and the incident has not been taken to heart. The Disciplinary Panel will be meeting in due course to deal with the matter.
Please make your players aware: foul language addressed to a referee will be dealt with as a serious offence. Repeated incidents in a game will be treated most severely. The use of foul language and abuse of match officials is NOT part of our game – let us get rid of it by working together to eradicate it.
Chair of Discipline