Havelocks have declared war on the Referees Society singling out top referee Aaqil Jamaldeen as being “incompetent” and threatening to pull out of the Knockout Tournament after their League campaign for the 2019/20 season got derailed. Having played their final first round game against Kandy SC under protest, their objections was justified when the Match [...]


Havelocks declare war on referees

Threaten to pull out of knockouts unless SLR gets down foreign referees

Havelocks have declared war on the Referees Society singling out top referee Aaqil Jamaldeen as being “incompetent” and threatening to pull out of the Knockout Tournament after their League campaign for the 2019/20 season got derailed.

Having played their final first round game against Kandy SC under protest, their objections was justified when the Match Review Committee found the young referee wanting with only three of the 12 mistakes pointed out by Havelocks who lost the match 22-10 being incorrect.

Referee Aaqil Jamaldeen (far left) is in the receiving end after a series of mishaps at Havelock Park last weekend in the Havies-Kandy Dialog League game - Pic by Amila Gamage

The most glaring error was the awarding of a try to Kandy after they had wheeled the scrum over 90 degrees, which was described as a shocking decision by a former referee.

“Actually it (scrum) wheeled over 120 degrees and he allowed them to score. When a scrum wheels more than 90, the No.8 doesn’t have to score a try. He can just walk and keep the ball. Law says the moment it crosses the 90-metre mark, you lose the advantage and there is a re-scrum,” said Thusith Peiris, a Rugby Management Committee member of Havelocks.

“When we got to know Jamaldeen is blowing we protested and they didn’t change. We found certain decisions which were not in line with the law. I am not saying he would have done it purposely. But he messed it up. He was not competent enough to handle a pressure game like that. After the game we went through the video and highlighted all these issues and sent a mail requesting for a review,” he said.

“What they have been doing all this time is instead of sending referees who did the game, the hierarchy of the referees society come for a review and they go back and say we will inform the referee. We don’t want to expose the referee. If a referee can blow in front of thousands of people, why can’t they attend a review and say they made a mistake or I didn’t see it. Good enough, honest enough. We are not asking the result to be overturned. If you don’t put pressure nothing will happen,” said Peiris who claims Havelocks have been at the receiving end of bad decisions.

“Havelocks have been very quiet. Last year we lost the league because we were denied a try by Jamaldeen against Army. It was a clear try. We showed video evidence. He said I didn’t see it and he never consulted the AR (assistant referee). If we had scored that try, we would have had a bonus point and would have been equal with Kandy,” he pointed out.

Havelocks will continue to insist that foreign referees be brought to officiate key matches.

“Since we had this bad experience we just kept on pushing. Based on the review we will argue where it’s going to end up. Just that you want to continue to put pressure. If a viable thing doesn’t happen, the club will have to take a stand on this. If we don’t get foreign referees and depend on ‘A’ grade panel of referees. It is ridiculous to see them boycotting the foreign referee. They didn’t send any of the top referees to do AR when the foreign referee (Jonathan Markowitz) was blowing. If they are going to dictate terms like that, the clubs are also going to dictate because we spend Rs. 30 to 40 million on rugby not to decide our position by an individual who is not competent enough to handle a game of rugby,” said Peiris, who is a Council member of Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR).

“Based on what we have seen we are requesting foreign referees. What we are saying is they can boycott any game they want to. We as a founder club of SLR, we also have a right to object and stay away from the games. If this is not rectified we may not play the knockouts. As far as the league is concerned, the whole interest is gone. Between 2 and 4 it is only a one-point difference, but one club is far ahead,” he added.

He insisted Jamaldeen was not competent enough to do a pressure game.

“They say he is the number one referee. The review proves the so-called number one referee in Sri Lanka has long way to go to improve. A top grade referee can only miss one or two or maximum make three mistakes. He is supposed to be in the ARFU (Asia Rugby) panel but I don’t think he has blown a single XVs game outside Sri Lanka. He has only done Sevens. He can’t even identify the difference between laws in the two formats of the game,” said Peiris, a former forward.

“We don’t have anything against Jamaldeen personally but we don’t think he is competent enough to blow big games like this. He is number one in Sri Lanka because of father, because we don’t see the referee coaches reports. They (referees society) don’t send it to the tournament organiser. We are not paying their fees even. I told the council I am not paying referee coaches salary because when they send the invoice there is a value put for the referee coach. We are the rightful owner of the tournament. If that doesn’t come we are not paying. We want all the reports filed with the tournament committee because some day something happens we want all that,” said Peiris, who is the SLR treasurer.

He said they were trying to create a little bit of pressure so that the referees society pull up their socks.

“They are changing hands and going on and they are protecting these referees. Match officials are supposed to be referee coaches but their reports are not sent to SLR. We don’t know whether they are actually identifying and correcting these referees. The pressure group is to keep them on their toes,” he said as they rebuild image of the club after the exodus of players at the beginning of last season.

“We are coming from nothing. We got the boys together and somehow fight. Imagine the morale of the players if as a club, if we don’t take these actions. Members will laugh at us, sponsors will laugh at us. Players are playing their hearts out and when things like this happen, they get discouraged and we lose the momentum. We have requested foreign referees for the second round, at least for the top four game. If the SLR is unable to fulfil, we will withdraw from the Knockout. And if the same trend is going to continue next year, actually to tell the truth we have to put a resolution to the club and decide whether we are spending 30 to 40 million and playing a competition where we don’t have faith in the referees or else we play some friendly games by spending about 10 to 15 million and develop the club. Because if the sponsors walk off what are we to do. How are we going to survive,” he lamented.

Police, CR&FC and Navy also joined the chorus of criticism of Sri Lankan referees.

“Refereeing has been very pathetic non only this season but last season as well. We have always encouraged always for crucial games to bring in foreign referees or expats who are in Sri Lanka. The referee who blew Police-Army game at Welisara made lot of mistakes,” said a member of the Police rugby management committee.

“From Police rugby perspective we have been affected and we have complained numerous times. Unfortunately they are very apologetic but ofcourse the morale of the team is affected because of decision. The refereeing is sub-standard or partial,” he said.

“We have faith in referees but they should have morals and values. They should have a passion for the game rather than for the team,” he added.

A top CR official lambasted the attitude of the Referees Society.

“When a foreign referee comes, these guys are all against without learning from him. They gave the most junior assistant referees to run with him which is not good for the country. They should be putting at least one senior assistant referee and also they should take the opportunity to learn. He was here for about three days. If they were really keen they should take sessions with him and learn. Instead they boycott. It is absolute bloody mafia,” said the irate official.

“I don’t think they do anything to upgrade the skills of the referees because you see the same mistakes happening over and over again. You can see why Havies are protesting. The Navy-CR referee was chaotic. I have never seen a referee so bad. He was inconsistent and positioning was bad. He got in the way of our attack, standing right between scrum half and fly half several times. He did the same thing for Navy. They don’t want to learn. They are a mafia of their own. It’s very frustrating. They admit to the mistakes and say we are sorry about it but they go on and mistake is made again. For the kids who train hard to lose a game because of referee is pathetic,” he said.

A top Navy rugby official said the Army-Navy match blown by the foreign referee was a classic.

“Both teams scored five tries each. He allowed the game to game to flow. He played till the last minute. In the last two minutes we scored twice,” he said.

“There is no perfect referee because referees are human. We are not against Jamaldeen. They have to improve. The local referees are not up to standard,” he added.

Kandy SC rugby manager Kapila Silva concurred with the Colombo clubs.

“Yes of course actually the refereeing is poor overall. We spend 50 to 60 million but everything could be gone in one and half hours because of poor refereeing,” said Silva calling for training programmes to educate referees.

“Every season it happens. We have to have some kind of programme for referees. They should have consultants for referees. There is no solution for this otherwise. They can point out mistake so they will learn. Players also learn every day learn from mistake. We can’t bring foreign referees for every match. Instead of getting foreign players it is better to bring a foreign referee because game will improve because we can’t be complaining every time,” he added.

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