House of Payne: Rugby leads way in protecting referees

Respect: England captain Chris Robshaw rarely gets on the wrong side of a referee

Respect: England captain Chris Robshaw rarely gets on the wrong side of a referee

First published in Sport

You would have thought that the 10-year ban handed down by the Rugby Football Union on a player who attacked a referee would have made a few headlines, writes John Payne.

The punishment fits the crime, Ruislip prop Barry Lockwood having been found guilty of punching a referee in the face during a second XV game against HAC last December.

But, save for a short RFU press release, it hasn’t warranted a mention. Not on the organisation’s own website, not on Ruislip’s website, where ex-Barnes man Carson Russell is now senior coach, not even on the local newspaper website covering that part of West London.

That is surprising when the RFU has so forcibly demonstrated its commitment to policing the game at the top level applies equally to the likes of Middlesex Merit Table Division One, where Ruislip and HAC’s teams finished first and second last season.

The respect for referees sees the like of Harlequins and England captain Chris Robshaw refer to the man in the middle as “sir” may occasionally make even the top players look like naughty schoolboys, but it is the right example to set.

The RFU backed referee Wayne Barnes last year when it handed Northampton’s Dylan Hartley an 11-week ban to go alongside the red card he received in the Premiership final for calling Barnes a “f…… cheat”.

That sanction plus the nine-match ban Leicester head coach Richard Cockerill received for abusing the fourth official during the same game won support at grassroots level where recruiting referees is problematic.

Ahead of last season, Nick Cousins, president of the London Society of Rugby Football Union referees had spoken of the effects of players’ behaviour on recruiting officials.

“Increasing player indiscipline and changing attitudes to officials may be having an effect on retention,” he said.

Rugby relies on a referee and without one, there is no game. That’s why making it clear what is done to eliminate attacks on referees is so important.

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