An academic study has borne out what the French have always claimed – that they get a rough deal from English referees. Analysis of 70 Super League games involving the Catalan Dragons between 2006 and 2009 reveals what the researchers say is a persistent bias against the French on the part of British officials.
Dr Lionel Page, of the Judge Business School at Cambridge University, said the findings show that referees penalise foreign teams more than their fellow-countrymen, although the difference is less marked when the match is on live television.
"This bias implies that the French could have won nearly twice as many matches with neutral refereeing," said Dr Page. "Rugby is characterised by the necessity for referees to make a large number of subjective decisions in ambiguous situations. This study shows that these subjective decisions play a disproportionate role in the final match result."
Dr Page said that similar patterns emerge from his study of rugby union's Super-14 competition. "These results should prompt rugby federations to work further to limit the amount of referee subjective decisions in a match using more technology."
Dr Page, a French-born economist with no background in either code of rugby, has offered to share his findings with the Rugby League. "But they were not very keen," he said.