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James Child calls for rugby league to emulate rugby union with big change

James Child was a brilliant referee but going into the 2023 Super League season he took a step back from the sport.

However, his insight is still very valuable and he provided an assessment of how the video referee’s involvement in crucial moments in the game could be improved by emulating rugby union.

Child said on BBC 5 Live: “The video referee can only give an opinion if he thinks it’s a red or yellow card.

“So if we go back a few weeks ago when Sam Walters shoulder charged a St Helens player late in that game. Ultimately the referee missed it and it was a difficult challenge to see, two defenders going side by side and he doesn’t see the arm touch.

“When you see the replays they’re from a completely different angle and it becomes much more obvious to the video referee to observe it.

“The video referee, and this is my inference by the way, thought it was a penalty but not necessarily a yellow card. But he can’t simply recommend a penalty so therefore you’re left as on field officials to try and sift through what you make of it.

“Ultimately I thought they got it wrong on the field but you go back a few years ago you had players staying down because they knew video referees could administer a penalty.

“I like the process that happens in rugby union where it’s very transparent. The referee has a conversation with the video referee, he looks at the screen and they talk through any mitigating circumstances and they arrive at an outcome.

“It’s almost a little bit like a checklist. You can argue whether things are right or wrong but in terms of the process it’s a very transparent process.

“For me I think having a transparent process helps people understand whereas at the moment it’s a little bit cloak and dagger, as you can’t hear the video referees communication to the officials.”

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