Almanack: Bonfire of the profanities

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The Independent Online
TABLE tennis is not the only British sport to be basking in the glow of wholesomeness. Rugby league, of all sports perhaps the least pure of tongue, is seeking to stamp out swearing and profanity.

The game's authorities are particularly concerned about rude words addressed to match officials by naughty club personnel and players. The stimulus is a case involving Stuart Farrar, Wakefield Trinity's chairman. Farrar admits making 'comments' to the Castleford referee Russell Smith after the match against Salford on 5 December, but points out they were made in the privacy of the dressing room. The League's board of directors fined Farrar pounds 100, suspended for 12 months, and - much worse - ordered him to apologise to the referee in writing.

Surely in such a rumbustious game an unkind word is inevitable? 'In sport,' the League press officer, David Howes, told Almanack, 'you get people bawling abuse at the officials - and we don't want to make them a protected species. Our officials spend more time with players and coaches than in any other sport. After a match in the bar, if people want to talk about a point of play with the referee, that's smashing. But what we are against is unprofessional, unproductive, one-sided abuse of a referee. Down the tunnel, in his room . . . where it serves no purpose whatsoever.'

The officials themselves share this stern attitude. Gerry Kershaw, president of the Grade One Referees' Association, said: 'We support the League wholeheartedly. As a schoolmaster, I see it like examination results. The thing goes in peaks and troughs.' It is easy to imagine Mr Kershaw, cane twitching, addressing a special assembly of club officials, summoned to discover The Coach Who Swore Behind The Referee's Back.

Kershaw sighs: 'It's always a minority that lets the side down.' And if the individual concerned does not own up, it's a spanking for everybody . . .

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