Sports letters: Whistler's bother

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The Independent Online
rom R A Bradford

Sir: I often find myself agreeing with the humorously misanthropic Alan Watkins in his weekly article on rugby union; when he expressed the opinion that the referee was the most important person on the field, he was highlighting the game's apparently irremovable defect. There must be very few decent referees about because some barely competent referees have, as usual, been appointed to international matches this season. Fortunately, there have been some good matches in spite of the laws and poor refereeing.

Rob Andrew's view, which is a commonly held and sensible one, is that only the best referees should be appointed for these big games in the same way that only the best players play in them. No reasonable man could disagree with that proposition.

Players do play to the limit of the laws and beyond, but they are only partly to blame. When some of the most able and best coached teams in England can come off the field spitting with anger and frustration, whether rightly or wrongly, at England's supposedly best referees, there is a serious problem that no one seems to have addressed effectively.

Important matches are being decided by very subjective and sometimes blatantly incorrect judgements; most mistakes can be forgiven but not those relating to scores. The referees and those who control them seem to forget that the game is for the players; if it is too difficult to referee effectively (as it clearly is) then it must be simplified.

Yours faithfully,


Middle Rasen, Lincs