The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Bradby 1st leg incident through a referee’s eye


The Royal-Trinity rugby game known as the “Bradby” boasts of a rich history that brags of great tradition.� This year the “blue ribbon” of school rugby was garlanded with unruly behaviour as spectators walked into the field of play and behaved intimidatingly.� The ugly protest was because the referee sent off a player for kicking a man on the ground.� Stamping a player is a red card offence as specified in the guidelines of the IRB and explained using a video clip. The match was stopped due to the invasion and recommenced after the Principal of Trinity came onto the field and spoke to the referee and� the trespassers.

Referee Irshad Cader being escorted out of the Royal College Sports Complex field by Police personnel after the Bradby first leg last weekend. - Pic by Mangala Weerasekara

Going on air on a popular local radio channel, Nigel Footie the Trinity Coach did not grumble about the penalties and said that he accepted the decisions. The characteristics of a good coach are to guide his athletes to better performance without shielding them and blaming others. The pressure that was brought on was such that the game ultimately suffered.�� In an environment where people will resort to any means to achieve their ends it is not uncommon to see behaviour that is distasteful. Pressurizing a referee before a match has been a tactic that has been adopted by many and it is not something that came in recently. Many are guilty today of going overboard in their attempts. The most disgusting incident occured when a parent of a player� twice visited the parents of a referee in the company of a local goon.

People talk of a request that was addressed to Royal to agree to bring in a referee from overseas. This match to my knowledge was a schools tournament fixture and the Schools Rugby Football Association is the match organizer and referees are appointed at their request. The request should have been discussed by their tournament committee according to whose rules the tournament is run. Royal happens to be the host and it so happens that this match is also the�� Bradby.� School tournaments involve around 250 matches and there are 45 matches in Division 1. What about the other schools who may make similar requests?

The match itself has taken second place in this scenario and the competition was hindered as Royal seemed broken following the fracas.� The story built by some is that this action was planned to exert pressure. This brings us to the issue of an ugly precedence that may be followed by others. The situation is even worse� because people well known in society, and from a school that is expected to lead by example and not through force and intimidation, were involved.

Royal seemed pale as Trinity got off the blocks 13 points to 8 in the first half which included a chase that may have been from an offside position. It was a well coached move to get the better of the referee taking the charge from around the base. When Royal got into gear it was around thirty minutes into the first half and the pressure in their half made Trinity make mistakes.� These included being caught offside, not staying on their feet and collapsing. These are the results of increased anxiety which in turn causes a physiological response. The common area of response that was negative was around the tackle ruck and maul.�� Research strongly indicates that instances of frustration during competition will inhibit the “decision-making process” of the players which is also a critical factor in refereeing.� The arousal of anxiety leads players to make mistakes which may even lead to physical abuse, such as what happened when the player on the ground was kicked. Secondly, players may react to spectator jeering at decisions being made against one side and conclude from the spectator dissatisfaction that the referee is inconsistent. The behaviour of the so called elite was not the best example for players or rugby in general.

Going back to the match, I could not understand why Royal did not ram into the Trinity back division without continuing to hit close to the base. The match did have a lot of ball in play despite the breakdown and would have been better, if the adults allowed the boys to play rugby than acting like the Grand Protectors of Decency.

The match had 77 breakdowns of which 28 were scrums (8 in first half) and 23 line outs, 24 penalties and free kicks and included 17 at the tackle, ruck and maul. At the last Junior World Cup the average number of penalties were 21 and 47 % were at the tackle, ruck and maul and the scrums were 23 and 22 line outs. What was wrong besides a false perception leading to incorrect conclusions.
The cry that referees are incompetent requires positive action of joining the breed and contributing with the ample knowledge people boast of possessing. Can you count the numbers of the all knowledgeable who have taken to the whistle compared to the era most like to talk about?

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

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