In 2018 Rugby Australia (Rugby AU) launched new national Incident Reporting forms.
This was communicated to registered referees last season and so far, numerous cases have been reported and have had action taken. Some newer referees may not be aware of the forms, and given that the issue of dissent and abuse is still a pressing one, it is worth providing some expectations and guidelines around the issue.
Rugby AU is committed to providing a safe environment for all persons involved in rugby, which is free from harassment and abuse, promotes respect and positive behaviour. This is strongly supported by the State Unions. Referees also have a responsibility to report incidents of abuse – this is to protect our fellow referees.
Match Official dissent can be described as the repeated or continual questioning or disputing of decisions, including showing contempt for decisions of match officials. Referees should have a low tolerance for dissent – keeping in mind we don't want referees to have too thin a skin.
At a minimum, dissent should be managed through the following escalation process:
1) Call the player and captain (if different people) out and ask the captain to deal with the player.
2) If this does not stop the issue, escalate to Penalty Kick.
3) In extreme cases of repeated dissent, escalate to Yellow Card or Red Card. Actions which result in a card would usually fall under the category of abuse.
Match Official abuse can be described as behaviour which has the effect of offending, humiliating or intimidating, through, but not limited to, insulting, rude, vulgar, offensive, disparaging, belittling, derogatory or disrespectful behaviour or language.
There are two processes to deal with abuse:
1) For players after kick-off whistle and before full-time whistle
The referee should sanction the relevant player with a Penalty Kick, Yellow Card or Red Card depending on the level and severity of the abuse. Foul language directed at a referee personally ("You XYZ") should result in a Red Card.
All Yellow Cards must be recorded in the Rugby AU Match Day mobile app or on team sheets, and most competitions request a reason to be recorded. Every referee should confirm with team managers after the match to ensure cards have been recorded.
All Red Cards should be reported using the Rugby AU Send-Off Report form. Log into the Rugby Portal here, click on the "Referee Appointment System" tile, and select "Send Off" from the top menu. A video showing this process is available here.
2) For players before kick-off or after full-time whistle, and for all non-players
If an incident of match official abuse is not reported, it did not happen! Even if an incident is dealt with on the day, reporting the incident gives Unions vital information on the behaviour of certain clubs or teams, without which they cannot escalate matters.
It is important to note that not every reported case goes "to judiciary". A range of options are available to competitions and Unions when resolving these issues under Rugby AU's Code of Conduct and Member Protection policies.
If abuse occurs during a match:
1) Call time-off
2) Either speak to the captain of the relevant team and have them speak to the Ground Marshal, or speak to the Ground Marshal directly and request that they deal with the offender/situation.
3) Only when you’re satisfied the situation has been handled, call time-on.
If abuse occurs before or after the match:
1) Do not participate in any exchanges, and do not escalate the situation
2) Where appropriate attempt to obtain any information to identify the person, including noting as detailed a description as possible
If any of the above instances occur the match official must report the incident via the Rugby Australia website: http://australia.rugby/refabuse
Once submitted the report is automatically sent to the relevant competition manager and State Union for action (a copy is sent to both your local referee Association and Rugby AU).
Rugby AU has issued a memo to all Unions advising Judiciaries and Code of Conduct Committees to consider the pressing need to address dissent and abuse in Australian sport to be considered an ‘aggravating’ factor when considering sanctions. This memo can be found here.
Report all incidents of abuse if not for yourself, then to help protect the referee next weekend!
Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact your local Referee Association in the first instance.