“Hands off” about rugby refereeing

“Hands off” about rugby refereeing

Stephane Bode is Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Political Sciences in Lille. Since 2011, he has worked specifically in the football field.

The recent Rugby World Cup saw very controversial refereeing decisions and endless debates on the subject. First, during the quarter-final match between France and South Africa, it was officiated by New Zealander Ben O’Keeffe and his assistants. As a reminder of the facts: During this summit match, two very serious mistakes occurred.

Stephane Bode is Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Political Sciences in Lille. Since 2011, he has worked specifically in the football field.

The recent Rugby World Cup saw very controversial refereeing decisions and endless debates on the subject. First, during the quarter-final match between France and South Africa, it was officiated by New Zealander Ben O’Keeffe and his assistants. Fact reminder: During this derby match, there were two very egregious errors on the part of South Africa. Voluntary second-line striker Eben Itzieth and a blocked transfer – an extremely rare one – from Thomas Ramos to winger Chelsen Kolbe.

As much as we can understand an error in the judgment of the on-field umpire, it seems inconceivable or completely incomprehensible that watching the video of the umpires in the booth did not make it possible to correct the first two errors of Mr. O’Keefe who is in the heat of the action. And while a key feature of the sport’s ideology is that refereeing is sacrosanct, Antoine Dupont, the French captain, was unable to back down at the Pace conference; “I don’t want to be bitter and complain about the refereeing, but… […] Some of the obvious, obvious things to whistle about just weren’t there.

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In the days that followed, the dispute over arbitration in France continued to grow, with the New Zealand referee even being the victim of cyber-harassment. It was then necessary for the president of the French Football Federation, Florian Grill, to blow the whistle on the end of the holiday by putting an end to this “useless” debate: firstly, we must not touch rugby refereeing, and secondly, if the French team loses, it has no one but itself. blaming.

Why are these arbitration decisions “against” France repeated in international competitions?

Let us, in this column, express our disagreement with this line of analysis. The important question is the following: Why are these arbitration decisions “against” France repeated in international competitions?

We can put forward two hypotheses that deserve to be validated through field surveys. The first refers to the balance of power in international rugby bodies, where there is a good opportunity to address the – particularly complex – issue of refereeing in the sport.

Carol Gomez, a researcher in international relations, rightly notes that France’s weight within international rugby bodies is much weaker than it was in the past when Bernard Labassé was president of the World Rugby Federation (2008-2016). He added: “We are witnessing the loss of France’s influence and the organization of this World Cup has obscured this trend in recent years. […] France no longer has any seat on the World Rugby Executive Committee, and on various committees of strategic importance, especially regarding the rules of the game, only five French remain, the same number as Italy, compared to 22 for England. 10 for Australia or 8 for Canada” (“L’Humanité” October 23).

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The second hypothesis refers to the social history of the sport, which is distinctly British. Developed in a private email (which the author authorizes us to distribute) by Alain Garrigou, political scientist and academic: “Winners Card [de la Coupe du monde] These are those of the Échelon network. On account of proven fraud. Since France is the only non-Anglo-Saxon country, this is to its detriment. Just look at the power structure in world rugby. This is not done completely consciously but through the subconscious. And by the referee because in rugby, arbitration is almost impossible and makes the referees the masters of the game […] The work of the unconscious, a kind of imperial unconscious in a sport that is not international, and which retains a kind of underpinning with its British university origins. but [dire ceci] “It is politically incorrect.”

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