IRBWhistleInternational Rugby Board (IRB) chairman Bernard Lapasset has spoken out against the “increase” in public criticism of referees ahead of the start of this season’s Six Nations.

Rugby Union, in common with many sports, has long set great store by respect for match officials.


But in the high stakes professional era it has become increasingly common for officials to find their decisions called into question while some coaches, borrowing a tactic often deployed by former Manchester United football manager Alex Ferguson, try to influence referees publicly in the build-up to a match.

“Rugby values its culture of respect for the opposition and match officials, which is at the very heart of the game,” Lapasset said in a statement issued from the IRB’s Dublin headquarters on Thursday.

“But there has been a slow increase in the level and intensity of public criticism of match officials and their performances from coaches and players,” the former French Rugby Federation president added.

This month Toulon coach Bernard Laporte labelled referee Laurent Cardona as “hopeless” and “completely incompetent” following the European champions’ 22-21 French Top 14 defeat by Grenoble.

Few team chiefs are quite as outspoken regarding referees as former France coach and French government minister Laporte, who faces a domestic league disciplinary hearing next month.

But the likes of Wales and British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland are rarely shy of offering a public opinion rather than relying solely on private IRB channels to communicate their concerns.

The global governing body said they’d reminded national unions that, under their code of conduct, “any published criticism of match officials or comments that demonstrate the potential to bring the game into disrepute will be investigated and addressed by the tournament organiser and, as appropriate, the IRB.”

Lapasset added: “Match officials, like players, do make mistakes, but it is important that we work with our unions to ensure that match official performance is discussed within the appropriate and established framework for feedback and appraisal that operates between coaches, match officials and the IRB.”

The 2014 edition of the Six Nations, the European game’s premier international tournament, starts this weekend.

Defending champions Wales are at home to Italy on Saturday, when France play England in Paris, with Ireland facing Scotland in Dublin on Sunday.

4 Responses to Referee critisism increase worries IRB

  • 1

    Mr Lapasset,

    If the IRB Referees and Match Officials do not perform up to standard, it detracts from the overall worth and footprint of Rugby Union, period.

    So, you have 2 options, and I would suggest you use them in combined fashion.

    No 1. Make REFEREE and MATCH OFFICIALS better and more accountable for their actions
    No 2. Make the Laws and Rules simpler, to make for less areas of contention

    Don’t blame the public, fix your systems… simple as that!

  • 2

    Mr Lappaset, as long as totally incompetent oficials, anministered by absolutely incompetent superiors are put into positions where that incompetence manifests itself in outcomes of matches that are contary to fair play, then both players, coaches and the public have a right, perhaps even a DUTY to discuss and comment on such actions.

    2013 was a year of HUGE controvercy in Rugby officiating, and yet the IRB and more especially the referees body seem either incapable or unwilling to take the matter to task and sort the nonsense out.

    I would go so far as to suggest, Mr Lappaset, that the very lack of action on the part of the IRB in relation to this matter, IS IN FACT BRINGING THE GAME INTO DISREPUTE.

    If the public at large see and recognise the blatant incompetence and / or lack of neutrality of match officials, then as an organisation the IRB should open their eyes and wake up to the fact that there is a problem.

    Don’t shoot the messenger Mr Lappaset. Treat the disease, not the symptoms.

  • 3

    “that match official performance is discussed within the appropriate and established framework for feedback and appraisal that operates between coaches, match officials and the IRB.”

    Your framework seems to mean as much as an individual’s criticism of a government on Twitter to be honest

  • 4

    How about standardising the way refs from NH and SH teams officiate. As Scrumdown has said, refs seem to me more incompetent than ever before. Make the laws easier to understand, and less open to personal interpretation. Then and only then will public criticism of refs reduce. Take for example the ref on last weeks game between the Saracens and Sharks: Saracens were continually offside at the ruck, where the defensive line was at least a metre past the last line of feet at the ruck. That is the blatant ignoring of the laws that paying public hate, and that coaches and players want eradicated.


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