The Rugby Ref has no connection with the firm concerned, but feels that anything that contributes to player safety is worth looking at. The article below was submitted by Vicki Power.
Televised Match Officials and the Role of the Referee
The role of the Rugby referee is changing due to changes in the laws and an emphasis being put on player safety and health.
Last year the International Rugby Board (IRB) introduced the Concussion bin in a trial period in the (then) Aviva Premiership. This allowed players who had sustained a collision or head injury to be assessed off the field. A temporary substitute is put into the game for 5 minutes while the assessment is taking place. If the player is fit and well, he can then return to the game. If he presents symptoms of a concussion he will remain out of the game and the temporary substitute becomes permanent.
Televised Match Officials (TMO)
In addition to the introduction of the concussion bin, the IRB allowed for more use of video technology during televised games. Previously, the video was used to assess whether a try had been scored, but the change allowed for the referee (in certain competitions) to consult the Television Match Official (TMO) with regards to foul play or personal injury, and also allowed the TMO to alert the referee of any incidents they may have missed.
There are mixed feelings on the use of TMO with some saying that it takes away the charm of rugby and the role of the referee and can be seen as a cop out on the referee’s part.
But, the results from the trial period appear, at this point, to be positive.
NB: The Rugby Ref says "anything that helps remove foul play from the game, and helps the referee make the correct decision should be welcomed, but the referee must remain the sole judge of fact and of law".
Referees have a great responsibility when they step onto the pitch. They must ensure that players and coaches comply with the laws of the game and that the integrity of the sport is upheld and that can only be assisted, at the highest levels, with the use of video technology.
Injury Surveillance Report
A recent report produced by the Rugby Football Union (RFU), highlighted the severity and frequency of specific injuries within the sport.
The study is commissioned by the Rugby Football Union and Premier Rugby Ltd and was first conducted in 2002. The study is now the largest of its kind and is used to assess professional rugby union injuries and training practises throughout the world.
Most Common cause of Injury
The report went into great detail of the causes of injuries during a match and what came out on top was Tackles.
The most common injuries to be sustained from a tackle are: Thigh injuries, knee injuries, other leg injuries and sternal injury to the ball carrier. Clavicle injuries, concussion and cervical nerve root injury to the tackler.
Tackles are all lumped under the same bracket, the report does not go into detail of illegal tackles or foul play, which explains the wide variety of injuries associated with this action.
NB: The Rugby Ref says "rugby is a collision sport and injuries are inevitable, but lets remove the dangerous and foul play, that produces preventable injuries".
When officiating a match, an additional role of the match officials, referee and coaches is to ensure the safety of the players. With the introduction of video technology to help rule and spot unsportsmanlike behaviour, illegal tackles and foul play, does this increase the responsibility placed on the referee? And, as a result, does this place more liability on the referee and the match officials when it comes to pointing fingers after an incident?
Robert Kitson , the Rugby Union correspondent was quoted in The Guardian in 2012:
“If a referee, or his assistants overreact in the heat of the moment it can ruin games and tarnish careers in an instant”
NB: The Rugby Ref says "referees react to what the players do, referees don't break the law or commit foul play, they merely uphold the law. Let us be the best match officials we can be through training and assessments".
The increased usage of video technology will help ensure that overreactions don’t occur and will help result in a more agreeable and explainable decision, but will the extra liability that it appears to place on the referee result in the overall feeling toward the change being negative?
The Rugby Ref welcomes comments on this article.