Clip 6 - 9 August 2017 - Law 6

The referee and his advisers.

In the match between the Lions and the Hurricanes, the referee stops the game and calls to him Jaco Kriel, the captain of the Lions.

The referee say to Kriel: "Everybody's telling me offside. Everybody's telling me what to ref. It's tough enough as it is. I'm pretty sure they're onside. They're making good decisions."

Kriel is quick to take the hint and goes off to tell his team to stop giving the referee raucous advice.

Rugby has referees, cricket umpires - and yet in practice a cricket umpire is on many occasions a referee and a rugby referee always an umpire, where the referees is one referred to and an umpire one who makes his own decisions.

The existence of a referee or umpire is proof of original sin. For in the beginning there was no such person. The teams would - so we are led to believe - do the right thing. Then the captains became players and match officials. They decided what was right or wrong. Then there were umpires who ran around with little sticks. If there was doubt the players could appeal to them. The umpire would them raise his stick if in agreement with an appeal or kept it down if he did not agree. That was all good and well, but there was a problem if one was up and the other was down. then they would refer the matter to the venerable gentlemen on the touchline. The dispute would be referred to him. He was the referee, as a person employed is an employee.

Barry Heatlie, the great South African forward and captain, did not like the system at all. He said it was most important to have a good debater in your team who could put your team's case.

This all changed in 1892 when the referee was brought onto the field and the umpires sent to the touchlines, later with a little flag on their sticks and very limited responsibilities. In that year the referee became the "sole judge in all matters of fact". He became an umpire (from the French numpere, not partial, not taking sides, and a numpire became an umpire, as a naranj became an orange).

More and more it became the rugby tradition that the referee decided and there was no dispute or debate. There was no appeal, as there is in cricket, not even a quiet and mannerly one. There was no argument about it as there is in soccer. But this excellent state of affairs has of late been becoming ragged. There are calls from players and even the waterbearers and medics on the touch line. Their favourite cries are Holding, Offside and Release. You see players flinging their arms wide like opera-singers. You even hear captains suggesting to a referee that an infringing opponent should be sent off. Putting pressure on the referee is regarded as an attribute of good captaincy. To many it is an example of the increasing sloppiness of the professional game.

This, even though the laws of the Game state: "The referee is the sole judge of fact and the Law during a match."

More and more referees are pulling back from this and even penalising players guilty of giving uncalled for advice, often given in a rude way.

The referee in this case is himself remarkably calm and polite. advert