The Garry Schofield Column: Let’s sort out disciplinary system – and ditch video referees

HERE we go again…

Another week, another debate about both refereeing standards and player suspensions.

Decisions being made by the men in the middle, as well as those of the RFL’s match review panel, are being talked about far too much.

Derek Beaumont, frustrated by the chalking off of a try by Oliver Gildart, fired a broadside at the governing body after Leigh’s loss against Wigan in their final league game.

And both Salford’s Paul Rowley and Huddersfield’s Ian Watson have been fined for comments about match officials following defeats by St Helens.

It’s not that long since Saints’ Paul Wellens was having a real go at the game’s rulers for failing to protect players as a row over Leigh skipper John Asiata’s tackling style was ignited.

Meanwhile Warrington were left fuming by the four-match ban handed out to Paul Vaughan for pulling an opponent up off the floor, which kept the forward out of the play-offs.

We could all see the Saints player had started to get up, and while there are reasons for preventing contact in such situations, was it really worth that number of games?

Then folk were left open-mouthed when it emerged that the three Wigan players, star man Bevan French, Kaide Ellis and Harvie Hill, who were given one-match suspensions after the Leigh game, could serve them in the Reserve Grand Final which took place at the weekend rather than the upcoming play-off semi-final against Hull KR.

To be fair, I think there’s more chance of me turning out for Wigan Reserves than Bevan French!

But to be serious, how can a ban meted out for an offence at one level of competition, i.e. first team, be served at another, i.e. second team?

It seems that whether it’s due to refereeing decisions or those of the match review panel, too many owners and chairmen are unhappy, too many coaches are unhappy, and too many fans, who are the lifeblood of the game and just as if not even more important, are unhappy.

I could understand Derek Beaumont’s dismay, because the ruling out of Oliver Gildart’s try had an effect on an important match.

Liam Moore ruled an obstruction on Bevan French in the build-up, and when it went to the video referee, Marcus Griffiths couldn’t find a camera angle to overrule him.

As I wrote recently, I’m not a fan of the video referee for a number of reasons – it acts as a crutch for referees when they should have the confidence to make a decision and stick by them, it stretches things out for far too long, so taking away that crucial spontaneity and drama, and too often, it doesn’t even do the job.

The system was introduced to make sure the big calls were correct, but has it really done that?

For me the negatives outweigh the positives, and with the suggestion that going forward, every Super League game will have a video referee, things will only get messier.

Refereeing is a tough job. They are crucial to any sport, and the kind of mindless abuse we have seen some in our game subjected to is totally not on.

But we can’t have a situation where they are above scrutiny.

Meanwhile the match review panel have lost respect. We need a disciplinary system which is straightforward, easier to understand, and transparent.

The RFL have got themselves into a pickle, and things need to be sorted out for the good of the game.