The referee’s decision is the base and the law stands on his side

The school knock-out for 2010 never saw a final result. An issue not yet resolved arising from the 2010 schools knock-out tournament is whether the action to restart the match from where it stopped was correct. Temporarily it seems to have taken a back seat while the matter is still before the courts.

The match between St. Peter’s and Isipathana was called off by the referee due to unacceptable behavior on the part of the spectators. Subsequent to this the Schools Association decided to play another day with the game starting from the point at which the referee stopped.

This also meant that the scores as at that time would stand. There was confusion on the acceptance of the decision of the Tournament Organizer namely the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association. The rematch as it was then called was never played. Subsequent to the issue St. Peter’s were declared winners and were to meet Royal in the Final. This match too was not played as a stay order was obtained and the determination by courts is pending. Various arguments were put forward and an issue that was hotly spoken of as to how a match could start from where it stopped.

Fie photo: A disputed game prompted the Isipatana ruggerites to turn their back on the return

Opinion as a guidance was issued by the Ministry of Sports but was not followed by the organizers of the tournament. While in other quarters they raised issues harping on perceived mistakes that were made by the referee. The manager of the Sri Lanka U20 team S.W. Chang had to attend disciplinary inquires where players received yellow and red cards during the 2010 Asian Junior Championship. One salient feature at these inquires as Chang would confirm is that the judicial go on the basis of “referee is the sole judge of fact and law.” Even though subsequent video reviews may show a possibility of a slight margin of error.

That is a cause for mitigation but not to hang the referee. The issue is that the referee’s decision is the base and the law stands on his side. I mentioned this in passing as this is not the main issue but was a side dish that tried to justify the bad taste that was given by the main dishes.

The main issue was that the match was stopped by the referee and there cannot be a restart but it has to be a replay. There is more food for thought and a caution for the future inclusion in tournament rules. I refer to the Tournament Manual of the Asian Junior Championship 2010. These tournament rules would have had the concurrence of the IRB as this was the IRB Junior World Rugby Tournament Asian qualifier. The relevant area for our discussion is SECTION 5 Tournament Rules of the Tournament Manual.
5.6 Match Stopped, “If a Match is stopped by the referee, the following procedure will apply”:

(i) Where a Match is stopped either at half time or during the second half, and cannot be completed the same day, the result will stand. (II) Where a Match is stopped in the first half, and cannot be completed the same day:

(a) If the Match can be played the following day, then it will resume with the outstanding scores and time to play, (b) Otherwise the result of the first half will stand. (c) In the knock-out rounds if the Teams are drawn, the winner shall be: -Determined in accordance with the following criteria, in the following order:

(a) The Team which has scored most tries during the Match is declared the Winner; (b) the Team that has received less red cards during the Match is declared the winner; (c) The Team that has received less yellow cards during the Match is declared winner; (d) if none of the above produce a result, then the winner will be determined with a toss of a coin.

This was not a clause that has been specifically included prior to this tournament in 2010 as conformed by reliable sources of ARFU / IRB. The purpose of the explicit clause in the tournament manual is to give directions to ensure that tournaments continue uninterrupted. The importance of a clean game is emphasized as the red card and yellow card too has been brought into consideration when a deadlock is faced.

The decision of the schools section taken knowingly or unknowingly is very close to the thinking of the rugby governing bodies. The importance in learning is for the future. More specifically to those who surface to the top, at the drop of a hat. To give their view as officials or as interested parties and did not think in a broader sense. That should have been important to the decisions and events that followed. Should people stick to old arguments to support that should best be relegated to the not so pleasant history of Sri Lankan rugby. See what is evolving in the world around you and concede and forget so that the game may continue.

*Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, coach and Accredited Referees Evaluator IRB

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