Video referees: Go big or go home

Video referees

Welcome back to From The Terraces, the weekly column where I choose a hot topic within the rugby league community, and discuss my opinions. This week I look the video refereeing system, and talk about why they should finally be brought into action at non-TV games.

Once again, the video refereeing system was called into question this week, following a bit of controversy at the Wakefield/Salford game down at Bell Vue on Sunday. Both coaches came out after the game and made a stand for there to be television replays at non-televised games.

There were two incidents at the game that would have been sent upstairs had it have been televised. In my own opinion, I believe they got the Greg Johnson try wrong, as it looked for all the world that he was in touch before grounding the ball. But, I do think they got the Ben Murdoch-Masila no-try correct.

However, there has been a lot of discussion these past few days, and it goes to show how difficult the referees job is when there are hundreds of people making different opinions of both incidents. The RFL need to try and come up with a way to get televised replays at the non-televised games. If you’re not going to go big with the video refereeing system, then take it away.

“I thought it was a good advert for having video refs at every game because I thought the Johnson try was in touch.”

(Wakefield coach, Chris Chester)

 “At full speed it looks like he has dropped it, but, a Sky camera might tell you different.”

(Salford coach, Ian Watson)

Let’s just say that game was being televised. The Murdoch-Masila no-try could have been turned around, and Salford go on to win the game and get the two points. What if Salford miss out on the Super 8s by those two points. I know it’s unlikely, and they’ll go on to lose more games this season, but it’s still a valid point.

I have been an advocate for there to be video referees at non-televised games for a good while now. It was back in the 1996 Super League World Nines that we first saw the use of the video referee. Yet, 21 years later, it hasn’t been developed enough to really improve our game.

They tried to do something back in 2008, when they trailed replays at a non-TV game between Hull FC and Hull KR. A few weeks later they announced that it had been successful, but clubs had to wait a year to decide. It didn’t take off and we still sit here today asking for the system to come in. So why hasn’t it, is it a money issue, or is it the manpower?

Back in 2008, after trailing the system at a non-TV game, Stuart Cummings had this to say:

“It helped with a number of key decisions. As a result, we have explored the introduction of video referees at all games in future, a move which would cost a six-figure sum each year.”

It just makes no sense for there to be extra help for those teams who are on Sky. If you look at the games that are televised, most games are those ‘bigger’ teams. You don’t see the likes of Salford or Wakefield on there every week. Therefore, most weeks, they’re running the risk of being on the end of some bad decisions, that could cost them in the long run.

Whereas, the ‘bigger’ sides have the opportunity for those ‘dodgy’ tries to be sent upstairs and reviewed, at many different angles. When Catalans play at home, there are three games televised on Sky, which means the other three games aren’t. So, half of the league will get the extra help from video referees, while the other half won’t.

The amount of times I’ve gone and watched highlights of the non-TV games, seen the tries, and thought… that looked a knock-on, or, his foot was clearly in touch there.

It just seems to be one topic that fans collectively agree on. Either put video referees at all games, or take it away completely. It’s bizarre to think that we’ve gone 21 years with only some games given the extra help. I don’t understand how it hasn’t been given the green light already.

I could go on and on about the whole system, as there are many things to talk about. One of the other hot topics is the amount of decision-making ability video referees get, but that’s for another week. For now, I just want the RFL to decide on this, sooner rather than later.

This concludes the eighth edition of From The Terraces. Please feel free to let me know your thoughts on if video referees should be used at non-TV games, in the comments below.

  • Karen JE

    If you have a big screen at your ground then you should be able to use video ref. Catalans at home have an unfair advantage as they have video ref at every game

  • Nick Sharratt

    There is no automatic advantage to having a video ref at a game as decisions can be over-turned for or against either side, so I don’t buy the argument that there is any disadvantage for any side.

    Yes, sure it would be nice to have an option to check decisions at all games, but there’s a cost and are the decisions wrong often enough to merit that?

    The live televised games are different because the commentators will go back to replies and criticise wrong calls and that makes the game look bad, but that doesn’t really happen much for the non-televised games and it’s the fans at the ground who benefit from not having the agonising and sometimes confusing delays while footage is scrutinised only to have a decision come up on the big screen which isn’t always clear why it’s been reached because in the ground, you sometimes can’t see the footage well enough to tell what is being checked.

    No, the video ref is for the benefit of the TV viewers more than anything else, so there’s no pressing need for it at other games, and while the sport isn’t awash with cash to waste on luxuries, it would be a mistake to add it. But they do work and add value to televised games, there’s no disadvantage to clubs who are not on TV as often, so keep it as it is.

    What does need to change is speeding up the video ref decision making – the Aussie bunker works much better but we could get most of the same benefit from quicker decisions if the video ref was only allowed a fixed number of views of any angle and then either go with the ref’s call or over turn. If the footage doesn’t give a clear reason to over-rule the ref, then it usually means it won’t matter how long you agonise over the shots, it’s never going to be conclusive, so just go with the ref and get on with the game.