CMRFU stands by referees

CMRFU stands by referees

Counties Manukau Rugby is vowing to standby its referees in the wake of a rise in referee abuse in recent weeks.

The level of criticism and abuse directed at officials is having a worrying impact on numbers involved, to the point where referees are having to control multiple games a weekend to cater for current demand - something that is not sustainable.

Counties Manukau Rugby has run a number of courses to try and encourage new referees into the game and is doing everything it can to help grow numbers.

If the current trends are not reversed, there is a real concern that senior games will not have referees appointed in the very near future.

Chief executive Aaron Lawton has written to clubs for the second year running asking for help in this area.

"We need behaviour towards referees and assistant referees to improve immediately," Lawton said.

"If we care about the game, we need to do something and so I am asking for help from the clubs, from the people involved to start forcing change."

CMRFU Referee and Community Projects Manager Brandon Roberts said the amount of criticism and abuse referees get is the biggest area of concern.

"We, as referees, always try our best and give our most accurate decision based on what we see at the time," Roberts explained.

"We referee because we love it, it's our way of giving back.

"Our families want to support us, but they don't want to because of the comments they hear from the sideline.

"Our numbers are declining drastically so we need to step up and stand up for our referees and support them at all times."

Senior referee Nigel Bradley has noticed a shift in behaviour towards referees and is concerned about that trend.

"Our referees should be able to enjoy our chosen sport without verbal or physical abuse," Bradley said. "We are often the only ones present that don't care about the result.

"We need to attract more people to give it a go as most people that take it up wish they had done so earlier."

Roberts also states that referees want to enjoy their day out at rugby and want to give all participants the same enjoyment. Not many players, coaches, or spectators know that continued questioning, comments and yelling in the background from players and coaches, meets the definition of referee abuse.

"An impacting factor when defining referee abuse is the variance in individual tolerance to what is perceived as abuse and what is not. As a general rule, if a referee feels threatened or insulted, this will likely meet the threshold of referee abuse for that individual referee," Roberts explained.

"If the abuse occurs on the field and involves a player, the player should be sent off. If the abuse involves a coach or a spectator during a game, the game should be stopped, and the offender sent from the ground."

Roberts has run eight separate courses aimed at getting new people into refereeing with nearly 150 people attending. This is a significant number of people that have completed a course that accredits them to referee rugby for
2 years.

With nearly 50 games a week to service and around 40 active referees, appointing referees and assistant referees is a real challenge with some having to do three games a weekend.

Defining Referee Abuse:

Physical Abuse:
.       Grabs, pushes, shoves, punches, kicks, spits or otherwise makes
other than accidental contact with a referee.

Verbal Abuse:

* Swears directly at a referee, calls a referee derogatory names, threatens a referee with violence, threatens a referee's family in any manner, questions or challenges a referee's integrity
  *   Use of verbal slurs, or mocking gestures or sounds in relation to a
referee's gender, race, religion, sexuality, age or any other discriminatory basis
  *   repeated instances during a match of verbal harassment and verbal
challenge by players, coaches or spectators following any appropriate warnings to the extent that the cumulative effect on the match or the referee becomes overbearing or intimidating or which otherwise threatens the safety of players or the Referee

Physical Intimidation:

  *   Intimidates a referee by imposing their body in the referee's personal
space, marching a referee backwards or using stand-over tactics with the effect that the referee considers that he or she has fears for their safety.