COLUMN: Cecchin abuse embarrasses rugby league, not just those criticising him

The week building up to the World Cup Final has been overshadowed by people crying wolf about a refereeing decision.

It can’t only be me that finds this ludicrous.

Since Matt Cecchin made the decision to snub Andrew Fifita’s protests to review a decision in the final moments of England’s victory over Tonga, there has been a public outcry in the Southern Hemisphere.

There have been street protests, an online petition set up that has received over 60,000 signatures and ridicule from several members of the media and former referees.

Cecchin has been the subject of homophobic abuse and harassment on social media.

Things took an even more gruesome turn when it was suggested by New Zealand journalist, Phil Gifford, that Cecchin’s decision to not get his on-field decision reviewed, a call that was categorically correct it should be stated, could be down to an “unconscious racist element”.

The whole incident was blown out of proportion from the offset but has now turned into a crucification of a damn good referee.

As a result, Cecchin has not been selected to officiate the final despite making the right call in the most pressurised situation imaginable.

In England, we have craved for referees to show the decisiveness Cecchin displayed on Saturday. Now he is being lambasted for it, and even more so, his career has been deeply affected.

Tonga and their fiercely passionate supporters have been one of the undoubted highlights of the competition, but the ongoing protests are damaging the reputation they have built.

No referee deserves the level of backlash aimed the way of the veteran referee, yet alone when his decision was precise. Sadly, extreme abuse of match officials is something growing increasingly within the game.

Then there are those based in Australia and New Zealand, whose outrage at the decision comes across as nothing other than bitterness at England’s progression to the final.

Praise for England’s display has been sparse, instead, the focus by those commenting on the matter has been aimed at the ‘scandal’ against Tonga.

The whole incident is not only an embarrassment to those that have added fuel to the fire, but the game as a whole.