Blog: Perfect. Just perfect!

Perfect. Just perfect!

Who’d want to be a referee eh!?! Well, given the name of this site, and the likely readership, I’d say – probably you! And if you do, or you are, then good on you. It’s a fantastic way of playing a crucial part in the game we love.

I didn’t want to start the blog on on a negative, but given the nature of what we do, I guess it was bound to be the case.

I write this blog from the UK where the majority of this week’s rugby press has been all about the decision of one person. And no, it wasn’t a referee. Dylan Hartley. Northampton, England hooker, and for a spell, British Lion squad member. But because of his decisions at the weekend, didn’t actually leave on the Lions’ plane so will not have the honour of wearing the shirt with pride when the tour kicks off this coming Saturday.

And why? Because he decided to speak to a match official in the worst possible way. All credit to the one involved for dealing with it with the tools at his disposal.  I’m delighted by the support shown to the referee by the independent disciplinary process. These panels have a history of making interesting decisions which allow the transgressing player to return to action to fulfill national team commitments. This time, they supported the referees view of things and his subsequent actions, and banned the player for 11 weeks. The disciplinary panel decided it was a mid range entry point, which carries a 12 week ban. He received one week off that for his behaviour at the hearing (where he pleaded not guilty, claiming his words were aimed at an opponent – like that makes it OK..)

So where does this leave us? For once the rugby world (outside of the club involved) appears to be more or less as one here in supporting the ethos of respect that rugby players are supposed to show each other, and the referees. I spent my refereeing career being open and honest with myself, the players and coaches of those sides I’ve been involved in. We shouldn’t hide from the fact that we make mistakes. Just like players do. Just like coaches do. We learn from them, and hopefully we carry on. We need to find a way to find a voice which allows referees to get the message out though. That’s a separate blog for another day.

To read the media, coaches comments and social media sites, there appears to be a widespread desire for referees to be perfect. For a second, just think about that. Someone who makes absolutely no mistakes. In a game of hundreds, if not thousands of decisions. I think some people need to wake up and smell the coffee. And it’s not just me saying so. It’s former players of the calibre of Justin Marshall who are calling for referees to be cut some slack. Who would argue with an 81 cap All Black scrum half!

So hopefully, Wayne Barnes has done rugby a great service this weekend. He has set the standard for all referees in an incredibly high-profile match. Now it’s up to us referees around the world, no matter where we are, and no matter what level of rugby we officiate, to keep that standard as high.



  1. Great blog Keith!

    Spot on! I have had a few difficult coaches this year, some are really good and give constructive feedback, while some seem more interested on passing the buck on their teams failings.

  2. Dear Sir,

    I would like to request advice on how you would rule on grass cutter/very low tackles without arms. What is your order of rulings on them? PENALTY and Warning or yellow card considering intent? If done a second time after both sides have been warned go to red? Also I have noticed that refs in the Super 15 and internationals let no arm tackles go 5 metres out from the line with regards to rucks. Is this the case or is it a lapse of judgment? I have noticed time and time again tacklers going in with no arms bringing down the pick and goes close to the line. What should the ruling be in regards to this? A number of questions asked here!

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