A Tough Gig

Recently I saw an advert from the RFL inviting people to start a path towards becoming a match official…for a moment I just laughed and then it hit me. It’s really no laughing matter, I consider myself quite tough, but nowhere near tough enough for that gig – so who would do it?

Imagine a job where every decision you made upset at least half of the people in the room, and that by the end of the night nobody would like you and everybody would think that all of the world’s problems were your fault. This job is real, this is being a match official.

But it gets worse. Not only do people start to question your judgment, they start to insult you, your abilities, even your professionalism and worse still, your family. The name calling goes from humorous, to edgy to offensive. Language that is described at best as being industrial tirades over you whilst you stand there in front of thousands just trying to do your job. You’re impartial and professional, you’re trying to earn a living and support your family, but that’s not good enough.

Without match officials there is no match. I’m no snowflake, I don’t mind questioning calls, I don’t mind booing, but at times, and all too often the line has been crossed. If you wouldn’t stand up on a bus or outside your child’s school and use such foul and abusive language, don’t do it at the game. Rugby league is a family sport, and young impressionable individuals will start to think it’s okay to hurl abuse at someone just because they disagree. The example being set is a bad one, desensitising youngsters to abuse is not a way forward for a better, richer society, or the improvement of rugby league.

People should also consider another factor. If they’ve ever made an error of judgment how would they like to be treated? If their own jobs were scrutinised as intensely, how would they stand up?

I’ve stood in the stands and been disappointed in a game, in my team and, from time to time, in officials. However more recently I have become disappointed more in those with whom I stand. Of course there will be passion, intensity and excitement, but there should never be abuse or vitriolic torrents directed at individuals. Singling out one person, screaming until your head looks fit to burst, red faced and angry is not passion, and it’s a dangerous problem.

Our wonderful game is not perfect, but then none of us are. It is time to stop holding others to standards by which you are not judged yourself. We all pay to see our team, and we all want them to win, but we need to realise that it is sport, decisions go against you and games are lost. We also need to realise that this isn’t because of the person with the whistle and if you feel it is, then boo and bemoan but don’t barrage abuse.

Finally if you think that the officials are all terrible and that you could do better, then you should step up and try it and prove yourself right. But then people don’t because deep down they know that they themselves couldn’t handle it in the middle.

Enjoy the game but always remember that until that whistle is blown, the game will never start. So always be thankful that someone is there to blow it.

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