View Full Version : Discipline: Let Down Again

Brian Ravenhill
05-05-06, 11:05
Discipline: Let Down Again
At the beginning of the season we were all shown the new tougher penalties for indiscipline. We were told miscreants will get longer bans, but yet again we have been let down by the alicadoos at Twickenham as Brian Smith of London Irish only gets a 3 week ban and fined £2000 for abusing not only the referee but the touchjudge as well! The below is an extract from the BBC rugby website.
“The minimum entry-level suspension for a coach found guilty of verbally abusing match officials is six weeks, reduced only by mitigating factors.
The precedents did not bode well for Smith or the club.
Last year, his Northampton counterpart Budge Pountney was suspended for six weeks and fined £2,000 for calling referee Steve Lander "a disgrace" in a post-match press conference.
And in 2001, Dean Ryan was handed a four-week ban and a similar fine for labelling referee Tim Ryan as "inadequate".”
How can we expect club coach and parents at the levels we referee at, to toe the line or be fearful of harsh reprisals when the RFU do this at the top level of their administration.

05-05-06, 12:05
A detailed report on the Richard Parks hearing on 4 April is on the RFU website (http://www.rfu.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/RFUHome.Community_Detail/StoryID/13594). (He called the referee a "f****** c***" after receiving a yellow card).

As yet there is only a short summary of the Brian Smith decision, but it will be interesting to see what the full report says.

Wert Twacky
05-05-06, 13:05

I've heard through the grapevine the words "cheating c**t" were used, among others, and if so, three weeks and £2000 + costs is a let off for Smith in my books.

Simon Griffiths
05-05-06, 18:05
Should have been longer really, we can't have people getting such short bans for referee abuse, especially when it is two people they abuse and they are in such a high profile, public position. I'm not one for being 'vindictive' as such, but examples should be made, if only by awarding the correct sentence.

08-05-06, 11:05
Commenting on the London Irish website this morning Brian said, 'I pleaded guilty to calling the referee a cheat after the Guinness A League game some six weeks ago. The Panel accepted that the referee put words into my mouth when he asked me twice if I was calling him a cheat.

'I regret the incident and chose to plead guilty to set an example to the team,' Brian continued. 'Sometimes you make mistakes and when you do it is important to put your hand up when you are wrong and face the music. This is what I would want our players to do so that is what I have done.'

so be careful what you say to players and coaches ..... preferably dont say anything and just record what they say ... but we are all human beens ...

08-05-06, 17:05
A full report is now on the RFU website (http://www.rfu.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/RFUHome.Community_Detail/StoryID/13882)

There was a conflict of evidence, and the Chairman commented that the decision was "fact-dependent". The two other panel members outvoted him in preferring the version from Brian Smith to that from the referee. The Chairman made it clear that had his view prevailed, the sentence would have been harsher.

08-05-06, 18:05
Hello All

I have had only good things to say about Lancs RFU and there panel, they are harsh and fair!

Must say thought , that his word against yours as a referee does not stack up well and leading the player to say something or put words into their mouth. This is now becomming a legal mine field. I know somebody who has a little tape recorder and mic in his pocket when he arrives at the groups and switches it on now and again if he thinks there is going to be any indescritions!


09-05-06, 13:05
The Chairman's report says that Smith was given some credit for, among other things, the fact that "He is an experienced professional, who played the game at a very high level for some years". This fact is presented as partial mitigation of the offence.

Now that baffles me.

Surely that would exacerbate the offence - Smith clearly should have known better, he has been around long enough and at a sufficiently high level to know that his behaviour was wholly unacceptable.

09-05-06, 14:05
Davet - I agree, but being cynical, maybe that sort of behaviour has been ignored in the past.

Still, let's just be grateful that he has been punished, so nobody can claim he was in the right.

Mike Whittaker
11-05-06, 11:05
That the Chairman writes the report, and records differences of opinion on the panel is something I find rather surprising. They clearly consider themselves more akin to High Court judges in an appeal court than to lay magistrates in a lower court.

We now know that the panel was not fully agreed. What does this do for confidence in the system with regard to consistency and fairness? Will the composition of panels become of relevance as deliberations become better known? We know the judicial background of the chairman... what about the other panel members? .. and should that be relevant?

Clearly it is difficult to make a judgement without being there and having heard the full case, and in any case being present one may not have heard the grounds for disagreement on the panel.

I am left with a feeling that the process is not as clear cut as it should be in a professional world. There are too many cloudy issues...

11-05-06, 12:05
There needs to be a tacit agreement or policy that as a matter of principle, coaches and match officials should not speak with each other until after a prescribed emotional recovery period has elapsed following a game.

In addition it is vital that in cases of alleged abuse, match officials immediately note down the actual words used or describe the factual nature of the abuse. Further, to identify witnesses to the alleged abuse and ask them to write down a factual account of the incident as soon as possible.

11-05-06, 16:05
Yes, it is a pity the panel could not agree, but I am not sure why it is a bad thing for us to know that. Would it not be worse to pretend they agreed? Where there is in fact unanimity, we can now be more confident. There will always be borderline cases, and we can more readily see which they are.

Mike Whittaker
12-05-06, 08:05
I accept your points OB and clearly this is just my personal preference...

My concern is that decisions could become associated with the individuals on the panel rather than with the panel as a decision making group. You are certainly right about borderline decisions, they will always be there so the panel do have a challenge.

The panel don't actually have to pretend to agree, they just announce the decision they have reached. It has worked in this way in the magistrates courts for many years and is generally accepted as a depersonalised matter.

Also to be considered is the complications in the event of an appeal against a decision where the panel have expressed different views... Just think that it would be further clouded. I prefer to keep it clear, simple and consistent.

(mind you, knowing what the individuals think is always more interesting...:) )

12-05-06, 09:05
In the High Court there is only one judge, but non-unanimous jury decisions are always announced as such. The Court of Appeal has always published dissenting judgements. The RFU therefore has more than one example it could follow.

It is not clear to me if we are seeing standard procedure, or the opinions of one particular Chairman, but I would personally like to see this approach continue unless significant disadvantages start to appear.

Mike Whittaker
12-05-06, 18:05
...and no doubt if any person commits an indictable offence it will be dealt with in the crown court where a jury who are not personally given public identification consider the verdict and a separate person, the judge, decides the sentence.

However the members of the panel clearly regard themselves as more akin to appeal court judges debating sophisticated matters of law (you should put yourself forward for this OB :) ) than as common sense observers acting in the best interests of rugby.

But have no fear, I am sure they will continue in this way, difficulties will arise and then it will be too late to change without a major shake up...

... and as I suggest, it is more interesting for the observers. :D