Tuesday 30 May 2017

Venter right to vent rage

Brendan Venter, the Saracens coach, stands accused by the RFU of conduct prejudicial to the interest of the game.

Venter's 'crime' was an intemperate attack on a referee that morphed into a general attack on what he sees as the poor standard of refereeing in the English game. Unfortunately for Venter, he spoke as a losing coach, so the validity of some of his comments got lost in the bitterness of the attack.

Uneven refereeing standards are a problem that afflicts the whole game, from schools to clubs to internationals, and the problems are not confined to English rugby. At the top end of the game, where individual careers and club survival can be determined by the whims of an individual, the case for professionalism is unanswerable. But even at the lowest levels of the amateur game there is need for far greater consistency.

The fault is with the rules, not the refs: rugby's laws are either too complicated or too open to interpretation and the result is confusion and frustration. Venter went too far, but his concerns are shared by players, coaches, spectators and referees across the game. The key area of conflict is the tackle area, but scrum time is also fraught with interpretation. The International Rugby Board needs to introduce clarity, and it needs to start paying its top referees enough money so that they can afford to become the professionals that the game needs.

ssport@independent.ie

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