Archive Whistleblower

The vital decisions must be right to stay out of the limelight


David Matthews explains easier ways of avoiding trouble


“ No referee, no game “ was a saying originally accredited to former British Lions captain John Dawes, although there will have been many who, often in desperation, have used it since. I wonder what this season’s total will be. It surfaces most often when a team loses and blames the referee for everything.


First, to one easy way of leading players to believe that you, as the man in charge, seem to be favouring a particular side, and that is the practice of using Christian names to address individuals. The impression is that you are especially friendly with a number of players and will make decisions accordingly; somewhat surprisingly, a large number of referees at the highest levels are guilty of this, mistakenly thinking it is evidence of a good working relationship, notably where a captain is involved. The opposition is likely to have a different view.


Where the penalty count rises against one team, particularly when the captain may have questioned the opinion of the man with the whistle, it is very difficult to convince players or spectators that an impartial display is being given. Added to this can often be a misguided attempt at humour; a very small minority are capable of this, but without a natural flair to make it work, it is very dangerous to try.


A fair number of column inches in the recent rugby press has focussed on whether some top referees have become ‘bigger than the game’ and as a result their own interpretation of the Laws takes over. I am not so sure about this; the legendary Clive Norling was reckoned capable of refereeing any way he wanted and almost to prove it, chose a New Year’s Day meeting between Cardiff and Bath to virtually complete the eighty minutes without awarding a single penalty or free-kick. In the closing stages, once it became obvious to everyone, a Bath flanker detached from the scrum to go so far offside that it was impossible to ignore, so scuppering the chance of reaching a milestone.


In football, England referee Michael Oliver became the centre of attention in the Champions League Quarter Final between Real Madrid and Juventus. After awarding a controversial penalty against Juventus he was then obliged to send off their goalkeeper. Two massive calls by the referee and both proved to be correct. As in rugby, whatever else there is to complain  about, the major decisions must be right.

DWM 12/04//18 (14)