All views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the site.
As a sport we have a product full of excitement, pace, power, sublime skill and huge collisions. In 2007 the officials went full-time in an effort to improve and "keep up" in games and with the sport as a whole.
I have no doubts their fitness has improved and maybe the statistics will show a small percentage of improvement in performance. However, I think it's time we looked deeper at the performances of our officials and where possible make adjustments that will enable them to step up and improve their performances and hopefully cut out their glaring errors.
Having read an article in last weeks League Weekly, it seems that communication with the Refs boss Stuart Cummings has hit a low ebb. SL Coaches used to meet the Referees controller on a regular basis to "clear any grey areas" or issues they have that has now been scrapped. Constructive dialogue between the relevant parties is a must if we are to continue to improve the sport and clear the glaring areas of confusion/inconsistency.
Why as a sport do we allow poor calls and the obvious mistakes go without any sort of sanction? Do we continue to accept "they are only human" as reasons/explanations for inept performances? When Greg Mcallum was in control, poor performances were met with a "not good enough" approach indeed the current referees controller spent time in the lower Leagues for his own inept efforts.
Of course we also have the "witch hunt" banners flying when fans question referees performances and sour grapes aimed at those calling for consistency. I fully accept the 50/50's will go either way and the speed of the game will cause one or two missed calls, but the blatant grapple, not standing square, ball steal with more than one tackler etc, are all avoidable. We've seen time and time again a Ref hammer a team for "lying on", but the opposition can be seen to be doing the same yet they don't get called as quickly or not all?
I also question why as Sport at the elite level we have a referee (Alibert) forced on us who doesn't fluently speak the language, fully understand the rules, and is clearly over-come when reffing games that involve crowds of more than 25!! I'd also question the RFL/NRL why we don't all apply the same rules across all Rugby League competitions. During SKY games there are many opportunities to "reverse" the wrong calls especially at scrums, yet it's ignored and whilst I accept the "Video Referee" debate is a different discussion, surely we should use it where it improves the game and gets the right call!
I am firmly of the opinion that Cummings is politically and managerially out of his depth, and whilst the referees remain "untouchable" there will continue to be high profile errors and the abuse they get from the terraces and players will only increase. I don't like to see players surrounding referees and it's cringe worthy when you can lip-read what's been said, but where do you draw the line?
In my opinion, any kind of mouthing (unless talking to the skipper) should result in a straight yellow card, but again we've seen players from different teams concede penalties for this and others ignored.
Finally I would question how on earth after the Challenge Cup Final Bentham was awarded the Grand Final? That in itself rewards mediocrity in my opinion and also after the Cup why wasn't the referee interviewed and asked to give his opinions on the calls he'd made?
I love rugby league and accept referees, like fans and players, are not perfect. But fans pay over their hard earned cash to see the best product possible and the players face repercussions for their errors or ineptitude, yet the untouchables remain just that and the grey areas get increasingly oblique!
I think it's time that a new "Referees Charter" was introduced and that where possible the grey areas are erased beyond doubt, ineptitude gets a notable response, and we move forward as sport all singing from the same hymn sheet. I am not asking for perfection, just improvement. It's not a witch hunt, just an idea that will hopefully get the officials up to the "Full Time Professionals" they claim to be.
Finally as a life long Rhinos fan I could point out many "perceived wrongs" suffered exclusively by my own club, but that would be just dismissed as sour grapes so watch any Super League game and seven times out of ten there'll be more than enough examples of inconsistency. No doubts there are many different ideas as to what equates to consistency and what type of situations should be erased from the sport.
Over to you Red Hall.
Thanks for reading.