Eamonn Writes In M.E.N.

SAINTS Chairman, Eamonn McManus, wrote in the Manchester Evening News today:

It’s nice to be sitting top of Super League with more than half the season now gone – particularly as we’ve been missing more than half the squad through injury in recent weeks.

One thing that jumped out at me when comparing our last game against Salford to that of Wigan and Salford the week before was that the lack of a video referee at our game (as it wasn’t televised) resulted in far fewer stoppages and, resultantly, a much more exciting and entertaining game.

One of the main reasons why soccer is the most popular game on the planet is that its key rules are few and are easily understood by all, resulting in a free flowing game with minimal stoppages. The same philosophy was adopted by rugby league, then the Northern Union, when it broke away from rugby union 120 years ago. League reduced the number of players on the pitch to 13 and rationalised the rules to produce the quicker and freer flowing game that we are proud of, and which rugby union still goes around in ever decreasing circles trying to achieve.

It concerns me greatly then that we are in danger of undermining our game’s greatest strength by according increasing levels of emphasis and importance to video referees.

People pay to watch a game and its players, not its officials. The Super League refs, now adorned in fetching pink shirts, and with cameras plastered to their heads, look more like out-of-work Village People than professional officials. Meanwhile , the TV cameras are spending more time focused on the video refs putting on a Punch and Judy side show, than on the game that they are supposedly refereeing.

There is now a stronger case to abolish video refereeing (or severely limit it to critical decisions only) than there is to increase its influence. Unfortunately, the latter is presently the case and it is prejudicing our game’s greatest strengths: speed and continuity. The main show is becoming subsumed by a minor supporting act – it is nothing more than a job creation scheme.

Let the referees referee and let them take the stick from the fans when they get it wrong  – the rest of us do! That’s sport and that’s what they are paid for. They should be taking responsibility for their decisions and not referring near to every play to Punch and Judy. Let the game flow for the benefit of players and fans, who are the only people who count. Most importantly, let the refs assume the responsibility that their position of authority naturally and necessarily bestows upon them. At the moment it is a case of maximum authority with minimal responsibility – a dangerous combination in any walk of life.

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