I wonder how long it will be before a referee is names Man of the Match in a game of rugby?
It seems that the men in suits who make the laws of the game (laws, note, not rules) are determined to make referees the stars of the show.
The roar incessantly. “ROLL AWAY!” “USE IT!” “NUMBER 8, MOVE BACK!”
All the time, waving their arms about, giving exaggerated signals to let us know what’s going on or, more accurately, what they think is going on.
God be with the days when you’d hardly notice a referee. They’d just get on with it.
Sure we barely knew their names.
Kevin Kelleher was an Irish referee who became famous because he sent off All Black Colin Meades in a test match against Scotland.
Now? Now it’s routine to send players off.
And I’ve a pain in my butt hearing “CROUCH BIND SET!” before referees then routinely ignore the ball being put into the second row.
“HANDS AWAY!” is another one they love shouting – except when the tackled player is lying on the ground with a hand outstretched holding the ball in place in clear breach of the rules, sorry, I mean laws.
It seems to me that today’s referees are of the opinion that we go to a game or turn on the telly to watch them and that the teams are incidental, there as a support act.
I mean, soccer is bad enough. That sports referees can spot a handball 100 metres away but can’t see a blatant dive ten centimetres away.
But it rugby, it’s all roaring and shouting an hand gestures and arm waving.
My late friend Paddy Clifford wasn’t a massive fan of referees even if he did occasionally carry the whistle after he retired from playing the game himself.
He told me the story of the day when, playing flanker, he picked up the ball and kicked it. And it struck the referee in the face.
Then he added: “Some people thought it was an accident.”
I wish referees were invisible. I wish they were silent.
Once and once only I bought the “Ref Mic” at a match in Lansdowne Road.
The ref in question was Nigel Owens.
I took the earpiece out after ten minutes.
And it made no difference. I could still hear him.
You will gather I am not a great fan of referees.
Well, maybe not.
I remember on the Under Eights in Willow Park, being sent off for straying away from the action to pick up chestnuts.
Typical really. There is nothing in the laws of rugby which outlaws the picking up of chestnuts during a game.
And I was sent off in my last game ever for pointing out to the referee that he was a tad biased.
Well he was.
Earplugs I think. I’ll use earplugs watching rugby in future.
That way I won’t hear the referee.
Or the two commentators telling me what I’ve just seen.
But the two commentator thing is another, annoying, story altogether….
(PS I have published a memoir. It’s called And Finally – a Journalist’s Life in 250 Stories. It’s published by Liffey Press and you can buy it there at http://www.liffeypress.com or http://www.alanhannas.com or the usual places like Amazon, Waterstones and Easons.)