Seeing red: We need to even the playing field

gatesy Roar Guru

By gatesy, gatesy is a Roar Guru


32 Have your say

    At most levels of rugby, nobody goes out onto the paddock to be a thug. The sorts of offences that warrant a red card are more often to do with a brain snap or bad timing. Rarely, if ever, is it willful and the offending player is immediately contrite and apologetic.

    So what is the red card for? Whatever it is, its real, practical effect is to punish the whole team. Now that’s okay if the team deserves it, say in the case of repeated warnings. But it is grossly unfair in the majority of cases that a team deserves to win or lose by a large margin just because of inequality of numbers.

    Naturally, if it is near finals time you take your wins and your points wherever you can get them. But did the Waratahs really deserve to absolutely flog the Sunwolves by that margin? Yes, they played well and used the circumstances and the laws to their advantage, but rugby is a game that depends on fine balances, one of the most important being that 15 men should play 15, except in the most exceptional of circumstances.

    Soccer recognises it, as do other sports. Imagine sending off a player in doubles tennis. The game would be over. Ridiculous proposition? Maybe but so is 15 on 14, in my view.

    Right now we apply two mantras – get rid of dangerous play and ‘zero tolerance’. Happy with that.

    I would like to posit a third – ’15 on 15, wherever possible.’

    The laws of the game are centred around the referee being the sole judge of law and fact. That has obviously now been ameliorated by the introduction of the assistant referees and more recently the TMO.

    While we have to have zero tolerance for blatant foul or dangerous play (and nobody argues with that) we have to take a sensible approach so that the the game is not ruined as an enjoyable experience for players or as a spectacle for its followers.

    There’s no fun in having the TMO pull the game up after the ref has let play go on.

    All of us can propose solutions, but my view is that the law makers must sit down and do some lateral thinking, but eliminating an uneven contest has to be the centre of their thinking.

    There are many situations where a player is not injured and knows he can play on. If the referee blows it up and awards a penalty, no harm done and the offending player can still be cited after the event. That would cause most players to think twice for the rest of the game. If the incident causes an injury naturally it should be reviewed straight away.

    If the player knows that his captain has some rights it can be earmarked for later review.

    Benjamin Fall of France tackles Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks in the air

    (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

    Some possible solutions
    A. Introduce another colour, say blue, which amounts to a player warning. Three consecutive blue cards equals an automatic suspension the next week, following the third card, even if those cards are earned over a number of matches. That is logical because it means that you are a serial offender.

    B. Red card – player sent off, then after five or ten minutes, a replacement is allowed on (if it was up to me I would allow a replacement on straight away).

    C. Yellow – five minutes in the bin. No automatic citing, but TMO can still cite for any offence. Any incident occasioning an injury to be reviewed.

    D. Each captain to have the automatic right to ask for a referral to the TMO twice per game.

    E. If video is available, both sides are allowed to ask for a post-match review of any incident and be entitled to request a citing.

    F. Opposing team to have a right of appeal to the judiciary if it considers a penalty too light.

    The object of the exercise would be to penalise a team by losing a player for at least one, if not more matches, but always keeping 15 men on the field. Let the judiciary decide who can or can’t play and let the referees officiate the game with a level playing field in terms of numbers.

    We always want our team to win, but not by unfair means. It’s more satisfying to win fair and square than by beating a team that is at a disadvantage.

    Imagine being a spectator at a World Cup match where you have paid big bucks to go half way around the world only to see your team eliminated because of lack of numbers when it might otherwise have been close.

    Historical note
    Let us remember that in the earliest days of rugby, there was no referee. The captains sorted out disputes and if they couldn’t they “referred” the question to someone on the sideline, such as the local vicar or magistrate. Hence the reason that the rugby codes have referees while most other sports have umpires.

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    The Crowd Says (32)

    • July 9th 2018 @ 8:33am
      Exile In Oz said | July 9th 2018 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      I’m a little on the fence with this. The point of a red card is to promote safe play because people can get really hurt from players not taking proper care.
      Maybe the player is sent off, replaced and another bench player is dropped. That way the 23 becomes 22 and 15/vs 15 is maintained. If a prop smashes someone in the 55th minute and gets replaced is there any real penalty?

    • July 9th 2018 @ 8:53am
      Ex force fan said | July 9th 2018 @ 8:53am | ! Report

      Cannot see why you would like to punish the spectators and viewers for paying to watch a game. 15 vs 14 soon ends up to be 15 vs 13….and the game is anyway over.

      Foul or dangerous play, the player shoukd be send off and replaced but that the sanction should be more severe and equitable after the game. Repetitive infringements should end up with a penalty try not a card.

      • Roar Guru

        July 9th 2018 @ 9:41am
        gatesy said | July 9th 2018 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        EFF, Good point about the penalty try – wish I had thought of it

      • Roar Guru

        July 9th 2018 @ 11:55am
        Cadfael said | July 9th 2018 @ 11:55am | ! Report

        I have to disagree. Just say the victim is forced fvrom the field. Where is the penalty against the offending team? Team A loses a top player, team B replaces the offender. No penalty. In fact it still works against team A. Because they have lost a player they too are down to 22 players.

        If a team is reduced to 14 because of foul play, why blame the game? The rewsponsibil.ity is on the offender. Leave it as it is. Yes, get more consistancy with decisions but that is it.

        • Roar Guru

          July 9th 2018 @ 12:40pm
          PeterK said | July 9th 2018 @ 12:40pm | ! Report


          not only that , not every game is equal.

          So punishing players in finals or at end of the season means very little.

          The sunwolves players 3 weeks means 1 super rugby game , what else does he miss out on for the next 2 weeks.

          Imagine a rwc final, what disincentive is there to take out the star player when you get suspended at end of season and miss trial games next year, especially when you get to stay on the field or get replaced right away.

    • July 9th 2018 @ 10:17am
      Puff said | July 9th 2018 @ 10:17am | ! Report

      Agree a change is required but a muddled colour maze may not contain the answer. Finding a balance between health and safety without damaging the integrity of a match is the most important factor. Dangerous or clumpy play needs to be highlighted and appropriated steps taken. The trick is, how does the ref compensate a team for such behavior as the signals are mixed. The team on the receiving end needs to be made hold but how? The offending player must be penalized but I struggle to see consistency at arbitration. The Barrett / Folau incidence were both confusing, which means on field decisions made in real time can often be viewed as incorrect. As northern and southern referees never appear to be aligned with numerous rule interpretations, serious work needs to be undertaken behind closed doors.

    • July 9th 2018 @ 11:19am
      Jacko said | July 9th 2018 @ 11:19am | ! Report

      So just get Billy no-name to take the oppositions best player out in the Final and your team wins…Sorry but the threat of a RED is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the game as finals are worth millions of $$$ to the team that wins and some will do anything to achieve this

      • Roar Guru

        July 9th 2018 @ 11:55am
        Cadfael said | July 9th 2018 @ 11:55am | ! Report


      • Roar Guru

        July 9th 2018 @ 10:23pm
        gatesy said | July 9th 2018 @ 10:23pm | ! Report

        You could still give a red in that situation. If nothing else it can alter the dynamic of the game, and to be honest, and referees being human, if they think that there is cynical play by one team, who will they watch more closely and how will they referee it from there?

    • Roar Pro

      July 9th 2018 @ 12:35pm
      The Doc said | July 9th 2018 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

      Great read and some good Points. I like the blue card system- provides some objectivity or at least measurement to determine when a player has crossed the line for repeated infringement as opposed to ref just deciding.
      Love the challenge system – something football should consider with their VAR system.
      I too agree there needs to be some rethink about the red card- bringing another player on really Just benefits the better teams who have greater squad depth. Perhaps the answer is a prolonged period off e.g. 25min. This would punish the offending and team without killing the game. Longer than a standard sin bin but not so long it ends the game as a contest

      • July 9th 2018 @ 2:52pm
        Sheikh said | July 9th 2018 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

        I’d keep 10 minutes for a yellow and then, if the red is a result of a 2nd yellow, 10 more minutes, at the end of which a replacement can come on.
        For a straight red, 20 minutes in the bin, after which a replacement comes on.

        Stops cards early in the game ruining the entire game, but penalizes the offending team to a certain extent.

        • Roar Rookie

          July 9th 2018 @ 4:49pm
          Paulo said | July 9th 2018 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

          If there was any change I think this might work, that is a 20min red card. I would flesh it out like this too…

          20min Red card in the last quarter is effectively early shower time.

          20mins should be enough for a team to exploit the numbers advantage enough to put the game out of reach.

          A good team might be able to absorb 20mins and still recover a win.

          A Black card could still be there for truely exceptional fouls. None I can think of this season that have reached that threshold. I’m thinking blatant eye gouge kinda stuff.

          I’m not sure if you bring on a replacement or let the offender come back. I’m of the mind to let the offender come back. Additional game bans not withstanding.

          A tighter control of the clock to avoid time wasting. Like constant team meetings, people sitting down ‘injured, the slow meander back to a kick off or a line out, Scrum resets etc. penalise for repeated time wasting so the game doesn’t go for 2.5hrs.

          Personal foul system similar to basketball. Say 5 penalties for the same player is a yellow card. Monitored by the TMO. Do away with the team YC warning for repeat infringements. If a team is doing that the individuals will clock up a decent amount of fouls in a game, imagine how clean a game it is if half the team are on 4 fouls in the last 20mins?

          Challenge flag for the coaches, not captains. 2 per game. Buzzed to the TMO who alerts the ref straight away but does the check himself (or herself). This would allow play to continue while it was checked. This avoids abuse of the challenge in stopping momentum, or a break away, or otherwise used purely as a disruptive devise. If something is found, refs blows the game and decides on appropriate sanction.

          Bring in TMO protocols as PeterK listed in another thread. Essentially more use in scoring plays and foul play but less use in general play. Need a tweak in what is foul play too while we are at it.

          • Roar Guru

            July 9th 2018 @ 10:14pm
            gatesy said | July 9th 2018 @ 10:14pm | ! Report

            Don’t agree with everything you said, but I do agree that you have come up with ideas. As I said in the article, it has to be up to the World body to get around the table and work it out.

    • July 9th 2018 @ 3:51pm
      SP said | July 9th 2018 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

      “nobody goes out onto the paddock to be a thug.”………..Except richard low-act

      • Roar Rookie

        July 9th 2018 @ 4:32pm
        Paulo said | July 9th 2018 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

        Yea, but who ever he hit, I’m sure they had it coming. They would have looked at him funny or said something mean about his Dog or something.

        • Roar Guru

          July 11th 2018 @ 12:19am
          gatesy said | July 11th 2018 @ 12:19am | ! Report

          It was Paul Carozza,Qld winger, and what the ..F was he doing, not only being run down but also eye-gouged by a slow prop, out on his wing?

          Queenslanders, mate! Soft as ….

          I was actually at that game and sitting in the (then) brand new Ballymore grandstand, just above where the incident occurred. No question that Loe was a thug.

          Yet another good Rugby day out.

      • Roar Rookie

        July 9th 2018 @ 4:32pm
        lewismarsh said | July 9th 2018 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

        What team does he play for? oh thats right he retired almost 30 years ago. Lets move on.

        • Roar Rookie

          July 9th 2018 @ 4:36pm
          piru said | July 9th 2018 @ 4:36pm | ! Report


          Must bring up Loe at every opportunity

          Because kiwis can’t let things go

          • Roar Rookie

            July 9th 2018 @ 4:50pm
            Paulo said | July 9th 2018 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

            Well, to be fair Richard never let anything go haha.

          • Roar Guru

            July 10th 2018 @ 6:42pm
            Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | July 10th 2018 @ 6:42pm | ! Report

            Well to be fair Piru, a certain bowling action is better remembered on the eastern islands than Sir Colin’s spontaneous yoga lesson, or Richard’s sensitive facial massage.
            I will let ours go, if you let yours go😎.

            • Roar Rookie

              July 10th 2018 @ 6:50pm
              piru said | July 10th 2018 @ 6:50pm | ! Report


              I only ever bring up ‘the worst thing to ever happen on a cricket pitch’ (Richie Benaud’s words) to rile you lot up anyway.

            • July 12th 2018 @ 6:46pm
              Jacko said | July 12th 2018 @ 6:46pm | ! Report

              yeah an Aussie brings it up tho……As they do all the time then say us kiwi’s hold grudges…weird