There’s two things that are an absolute buzzkill when it comes to sport - a dead-rubber match and an unfair contest.
By unfair contest I’m not referring to one like the unstoppable Lions team going up against the Sunwolves and bagging a 94-7 win. I’m referring to one team being one, two, or however many players down due to a red card having been issued at any stage during the game.
Let me just say this from the onset - the All Blacks’ defeat to the British and Irish Lions, or more specifically, Sonny Bill Williams being issued a red card and the Kiwis having to contest an already-tough game one man down didn’t spark this idea (I have no interest in becoming a part of that 'the All Blacks would have won if they had played with 15 men' clan that were so prominent post that encounter).
No, I’ve been thinking about the red card issue for a while now, and the more I think about it, the more I think players that make themselves guilty of foul play should be dealt with in another way.
We’ve seen it many times - a great game being dampened by a red card, leaving one team with a numerical disadvantage. It immediately takes away from the match.
And probably the only time it doesn’t is when that red card is shown at the very end of the game, like with the Stormers’ Rynhardt Elstadt and the Cheetahs’ Henco Venter at the weekend.
Now one can argue that a player who gets involved in anything that constitutes a red card, intentionally or unintentionally, is part of a team and therefore the team should just have to deal with the setback.
You can also say that if, for example, a player from Team Blue takes out a player from Team Red, and that player from Team Red has to leave the field and be replaced with a player who is second to him, it will then be unfair to towards Team Red to have to field a weaker player.
But what I think is more unfair is a team immediately being at a disadvantage because one of their players getting sent off for the whole game due to an action that might have been accidental, reckless or malicious (and like we all know, there has been great confusion and inconsistency with regards to how these cases, whatever the intent, have been treated at various levels anyway).
That is not fair. And what is sport if not a fair contest?
In my opinion, a red card should be given should a player be guilty of dangerous play, but that player should be allowed to continue the match and should be dealt with afterwards.
The normal sanctions should still apply, in that way, there is no numerical disadvantage during the game, but the guilty player will still get a ban, depending on the level of infringement.
Regarding yellow cards, I think that process can remain the same. Or, the 10-minute ban for yellow cards can also be removed, and if a player gets two yellow cards in a match, the red card protocol applies.
If a player only gets one yellow card in a game, a demerit system can be implemented wherein three yellow cards (over the span of a particular competition, for example) results in a sanction.
What I discussed above might not do anything to curb dangerous play more effectively than the current system, but to be honest, it’s not like the current system is helping much either.
But at least, I think, dealing with cards, especially red cards, in a different way will ensure the game will be guaranteed to be one thing - a fair, equal contest.