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It’s not “The Chris Kendall show” – Referee discusses Challenge Cup Final controversy

Super League Referee Chris Kendall at Wembley

Chris Kendall has opened up about the Challenge Cup final he officiated this year, between Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves.

He caused plenty of controversy by showing two early yellow cards, which many saw as soft, especially on such a big occasion.

Speaking on the State of Mind podcast, by a charity that supports the mental health of people within sport, he talked about the experience: “Saturday was brilliant. This was the second Challenge Cup final I’d done.

“You go into a game thinking, ‘Right, what’s my plan A?’ So my plan A was, ‘Let’s get through the first few sets and the players will probably just play, won’t push too much early on in the game and we’ll get through the first few sets and then we’ll kind of evaluate and see where we’re up to.’

“Now, probably by the eighth or ninth tackle of the game, and 90 seconds in, my plan A had gone to plan Z. It was just a totally unexpected start to the game.”

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Kendall: It’s not “The Chris Kendall show”

Chris Kendall

Credit: Imago Images

One of the key criticisms sent to him by fans is that he tries to make the game about himself by making big decisions.

However, he addressed this: “There’s a popular misconception that referees like to be the showpiece of the event and like to make it all about them and probably I might cop that a little bit more than others with ‘The Chris Kendall Show’ but that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

“But sometimes by not implementing yourself and by not involving yourself in the game,  you’re not doing what’s right for the game. In the Challenge Cup Final, for example, the first few sets, we have a framework that we work to in terms of head contact and that’s not been set by the refs, that’s been set by stakeholders, brain committee.

“Brain health is just as important in a regular Super League match as it is in a final.

“It would have been easier for me and Liam to ignore our framework because it was the Challenge Cup Final but that’s not what’s right for the game, and that’s not what’s right for ultimately the safety and the long-term safety of players going forward.”

Elsewhere in the podcast, he said that he felt there was an “obsession” with referees, and that talk about them after games wasn’t necessary.

referee Chris Kendall in Super League disciplinary

Credit: Imago Images

The directive from the RFL has been to be harsh on head contact this year, and that’s exactly what he did during the game.

Kendall continued: “You don’t want to inject yourself into the game and if you cannot inject yourself into the game, then brilliant. The first high tackle comes, the Mike Cooper tackle comes on Saturday and I’m thinking I’ve not got a choice here.

“Equally I know what’s going to come with it, the idea that Chris Kendall’s making it about himself again, Chris Kendall loves a card and he loves making it all about himself.

“It would be easy to back off but that wouldn’t have been right for the game and for the long-term safety and health of players.

“I’d say probably for the next 78 minutes, the final played out exactly how, from a referee’s point of view, you would like it to play out. It was just those first those first couple of minutes were a little bit unexpected.”

There were no more cards in the game after the initial few minutes, and Wigan Warriors went on to seal the victory 18-8.

You can donate to the State of Mind charity here, to support the work they do to support the mental health of people within sport.

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