CAPE TOWN - Western Province Rugby Union president Thelo Wakefield says that the union takes the recent allegations of abuse of referees very seriously and that clubs or players who are found guilty of ill-discipline will be “dealt with strictly”.
On Tuesday, Wakefield, the WP Disciplinary Committee and the executive committee of referees met to find a solution to the reports of referee abuse on the WP club rugby scene, and Wakefield said that stricter bylaws will be implemented to minimise on-field ill-discipline by players, club management and officials and supporters.
“In recent times there’s been a whole range of infringements - from club officials being rude to referees, to eye gouging, to spitting and fighting during a match or afterwards, and the authority of the referee gets undermined.
“The referees feel threatened because they feel that their safety isn’t guaranteed. We don’t condone the fact that in the past few weeks, a referee was locked up in his change room for a few hours because the supporters of a certain club threatened him, and that led to the referees withdrawing themselves from matches. But not all clubs are guilty of this.”
Wakefield also said that there are some clubs that have complained about the behaviour of referees, and added that the excuse wasn’t valid as there are various structures that clubs can report to.
“The complaint of the clubs are that referees aren’t innocent, that they show up late and that they don’t officiate according to the rules.”
“But that’s no excuse, there are structures within the union, there’s the referees society and there are club rugby departments where they can raise their concerns. We decided to change the bylaws of the union to make it stricter and take it to the clubs for approval. We fear we might lose a referee. Last week I had to get three referees from another union so that a match could take place.”
And although WPRU were aware of the reported incidents, Wakefield said that some of these cases were never reported by referees, and the ones that were reported (in a post-match document) weren’t detailed enough. Wakefield also added that support would be offered to referees in order to make these reports as thorough as possible.
“A disciplinary committee member cannot suspend a players if the report isn’t thorough. We’ve offered to assist those referees who aren’t able to write a thorough report. And in a serious case, they have to report the incident immediately and get an affidavit the Monday,” Wakefield said.
According to Wakefield, 85 percent of reported cases took place during lower league games, and he added and an indaba would be hosted to educate clubs and players, while he also added that referees who are guilty of poor behaviour would be addressed.
“Every executive committee member of WP will address a group of 10 clubs (in regions), and we will request those clubs to attend a meeting where we will have an indaba on ill-discipline and foul play on the field.”
“Enough is enough. We are going to be stricter. We are going to put players away, we are going to put clubs away, and we are going to act against referees whose behaviour isn’t right on the field, whether they arrive to the field late, start a match to early, and so forth.”
“The referee society was happy with it, and I’ve submitted a letter to all the clubs, and I’ve requested them to cooperate. After Eid (after June 28), we will have a big indaba regarding foul play on the field and all the clubs have to come together and make suggestions.”