Talking Rugby League: RFL’s welcome transparency as Phil Bentham speaks on refereeing issues

LAST week, Phil Bentham and Robert Hicks of the RFL fronted a media conference to discuss a wide range of issues in refereeing practice that we are currently witnessing.

Phil has been appointed as the new RFL head of match officials, although he hasn’t yet officially started in his new role.

It was a good meeting and I hope indicates that the RFL is going to be much more transparent about its refereeing and disciplinary processes than perhaps it has been in the past.

We quizzed them about the large number of red and yellow cards early in the season and about the controversy (in some people’s eyes) related to some key decisions in the recent World Club Challenge.

Here are some of the comments that Phil made:

“It’s fantastic being back in Rugby League, although at the moment I’m just tipping my toe in. A big part of this role is that we are open with clubs and the media, having regular calls talking about decisions and how referees made decisions. There will be a lot of openness so that people can understand what referees are doing. They may not agree with every decision, but at least you will be able to understand the rationale of the decisions.

“We haven’t agreed a final date (for him starting at the RFL). We are trying to get it through as soon as possible. Hopefully within the next month.

“On the Wardle try, Liam Moore confirmed that the ball was on the line when he sent it up there.

“I though the way Chris Kendall looked at it, looking at it in full speed motion, within his communication he didn’t see any clear indication of a second movement.

“They (the match officials who gave a red card to Fa’amanu Brown against Warrington) were very, very uncomfortable with the decision. We were straight into it with Rob (Hicks). The referees were far more comfortable going into this weekend and how they could use the (revised) framework to come out with sensible outcomes.”

And, in response to one question about whether referees should be able to referee their hometown club, which they are unable to do in football, Phil said the following:

“I am 100 percent happy with the way things run in Rugby League. In Rugby League we haven’t got those numbers (as in football). It questions the integrity of the referee. You are just refereeing the incidents that come up in front of you.

“I was criticised for over-penalising Leigh, with some people suggesting that I was over-compensating because I had grown up as a Leigh supporter.”

And, asked whether the deliberation of the video referee could be transmitted to the spectators in the stadium, as it is to the viewers at home, he said the following:

“To get the video-referee decision broadcast in the stadium would be a big project. You can argue that you have a better experience of the referee’s decision making if you don’t go to the game. It is something we would need to look at from a logistics point of view.”

As I sat in the press box in the World Club Challenge game, awaiting the video referee’s decisions, I did have some pangs of regret that I wasn’t watching the game at home on my TV to hear what the video referee was saying.

It would certainly improve the experience at the ground if it could be introduced.