Friday, March 11, 2011

The Angry Ref - "I’m sorry, are you still here?"

As a referee, especially in America, especially when dealing with kids or football players both of whom don’t know when to shut up, there’s a certain amount of explaining that not only required but expected; no, demanded by players.  One reason for this is that often coaches don’t know the law or have some archaic understanding of things from the long-sleeve cotton jersey days.  Another reason is that undermanned coaching staffs have to spend so much time teaching skills and beating the football out of players that they never have time to teach a proper understanding of the laws.

I remember once calling a penalty, something to the effect of, “Seven, you’re off your feet and failed to bind, back ten.”   The answer from the player was “It’s rugby man, there are no rules!”  Really.  So then what am I doing out here on a lovely Saturday when I could be lawn bowling instead?  Whatever the reason, players often require just a little extra explanation after a penalty so they can understand what’s happened.

Often this is fine.  If we’re about to have a line out or a scrum or a kick at goal or some other play that requires a little set up, I have no problem taking an extra few moments to help you understand what the call was and how you can avoid it in the future.  I won’t debate interpretation of the law.  That will usually be met with, “I’ll look it up and we can discuss it at the pub.”  But I find that a couple seconds of explanation can help deter future infractions.  I also like the sound of my strong melodious voice.

But there’s one time you must understand that you jibba jabba at your own peril.  If you hear the words, “Back ten” and you think you’re going to slow things down by standing there and asking questions you’ve likely got another thing coming; like perhaps a prop running up your reverse pie hole.  This is especially likely if you got hit with non-dangerous type of penalty and I don’t fell like I need to issue any cautions. 

Let me give you an example, say you have a scrum ten meters from the try line.  Let’s say your hooker has his foot up before the ball is put in.  Let’s say I award a free kick to the attacking team.  What do you think is the best move in this case?  Should you:

a)     Get back ten, look at the referee’s signal and realize what happened.
b)    Get back ten, figure out what happened at the next stoppage.
c)     Stand in front of the ref and start a conversation

The answer is that you can really do any of these things but only a) and b) carry no risk of being severely embarrassed.  I remember a few times awarding a free kick ten or so metes from the goal line and having penalized defending players standing near me (but away from the mark) and trying to get an explanation.  Meanwhile, the attacking half back has tapped, passed off to some big moosey forward and seen his boys score a try.  It’s usually around this time that I’ve got a coach or a captain in my ear yelling about how I shouldn’t have allowed the quick tap because I had held players up by giving them an explanation.  

Let me be perfectly clear, unless I call you over I am not keen to explain anything just then.  If you approach me for an explanation while I’m telling you to get back ten you’re liable for a penalty (not ten) but if you’re not interfering with play you may not be penalised though you’re liable to give up an easy 5.  The point is, I’m not going to let you slow down play by approaching me for an explanation while the attacking team has a prime scoring chance.  And I sure as hell don’t want you complaining about it and blaming me if you’re scored on whilst dilly-dallying about ten meters from your own line.  When you’re told to get back, get back, we can talk about it later.    Believe me, I’ll remember.


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