NO LAW CHANGES BUT GET READY FOR THE TALKING POINTS
David Matthews heralds the new season
Discipline problems for Danny Cipriani and Chris Ashton, reported financial difficulties at the RFU, an undistinguished test series for England in South Africa, the Lancashire Leagues breakaway and another flying start for the All Blacks, but no Law Changes to worry about. Such were the main stories of the summer months, although there is an experimental law being trialed in the newly formed knockout competition for Premiership clubs which will replace the Anglo Welsh Cup. It concerns the tackle, with the legal height being reduced to a line between the armpits. I think you can assume that this will quickly be adopted throughout the game.
Amongst the many memorable quotes from last season was one by Ian Tempest, a full time referee and member of the Liverpool Society, who, following one particular match, remarked that if you whistled for every single potential offence the total number of penalties in each game would exceed forty. I do believe that, generally, at the highest level, this wave of thinking has permeated the philosophy of how eighty minutes between two quality teams ought to be handled. Not by accident has this been achieved, but thanks to a select band of former international referees who make up the professional support team who have worked hard on coaching and development. The level of thought and ideas which have gone into this has yet to extend to the lower reaches and maybe never will.
It is all best summed up by one example from last season (and it would not be hard to use others) when I had a fairly short, yet quite amicable exchange of views with the match assessor, adviser, or whatever the current terminology is. After a drawn ‘derby’ meeting at level 7, which was played in possibly the worst conditions of the season, I commented to the man with the clipboard that I thought that the referee made a large contribution to an enjoyable eighty minutes. His less than enthusiastic reply seemed to be based on the “lack of yellow cards for offences in the red zone.” For the uninitiated in referee mumbo jumbo, we are talking about the 22 metre area. Hardly a ringing endorsement for what both teams considered was the best refereeing performance they had seen. This is the barrier an aspiring referee has to negotiate.
As for the issues over the summer, Cipriani and Ashton have accumulated too much ‘previous’; on the evidence of one outing, New Zealand can be penciled in now as 2019 World Cup winners; England don’t seem to be making any progress; the Lancashire Leagues will end after a season and, though the RFU may well have future financial changes in mind, try convincing the majority of supporters that England deserved last season’s pay rise, or that there has not been a botch up which has led to a massive overspend on East Stand redevelopment.
DWM 22Aug18 (1)