Keyboard warriors

I find myself getting really irritated by people who sit at home (or wherever) and think its perfectly acceptable to abuse referees on Twitter or Facebook or wherever just because they happen to be involved in their games, or simply because they don’t understand what our role is and how we do it.

What’s even more galling is that their impunity is brought up regularly and I just can’t help giving some back to those who suggest, or blatantly accuse, them of being cheats or biased. We’re talking about our top officials in the world, most of whom are professional referees. Their livelihoods depend on them being the exact opposite! Demonstrably and accountably so. Some would say that the abuse is “just part of the territory”, but why should it be?

A conversation on twitter between me, @USrfr and @rugbyrefscom got me thinking. Is part of the problem that we referees have no voice at the top level. We joked about me having a job with the IRB to promote refereeing from a PR perspective (the day job!).

Outside of a few top level refs being on Twitter in a personal capacity, there is no mechanism for referees to have a voice. We’ve heard suggestions from SANZAR that their guys would appear in press conferences. But I’ve heard that for 2 years and never seen or heard of it ever happening. In recent weeks, Marius Jonker has held his hands up, albeit a few days after the event, to an error made in his SuperRugby appointment, but that was probably more a management issue than a concerted PR one. We’ve seen another incident involving him this week where a Team of 3 discussion after an incident of foul play turned from a decision to give a red card, to – a few moments later, and a 10m walk – a yellow (& white) card. Apart from the subsequent actions of the Citing people, we haven’t heard from Marius. Can’t think why not. Would be a great opportunity to be open and transparent about a major decision. But no, the wall of silence is maintained.

I think we need to do something about it! But what? What would help your perception of referees at the very top?

  • Twitter
  • A concerted PR campaign supporting & recruiting referees
  • Post match interviews
  • Publication of Match Observers/assessors reports
  • Rankings of top tier referees in each union/competition
  • Public profiles
  • A YouTube channel
  • Blogs
  • All of the above?

What do you reckon?

*Keyboard Warriors is a term I blatantly stole from @TheRugbyDiary /@totti369

Leave a comment


  1. You might want to consider a study of Nigel Owens in relation to this. Active user of twitter, communicates frequently with players and fans – and gives as good as he gets when the flak starts flying.

    • Indeed, I’m most familiar with his work. There’s a few others on Twitter, but not in the same way he does it. Get the impression the powers that be don’t approve. Or they just leave him to it. We need a coordinated PR effort on behalf of rugby referees across the globe!!

  2. mandydog

     /  5 May, 2012

    As a former ref and now a CMO in a small non-home union I’d go for ‘all of the above’, I’d like objective regional data on the competition for ‘my refs’. Otherwise, in preparing them for matches involving other unions I’m working to some extent in a vacuum. However some of the detailed information culled from, for instance, assessments has to remain out of the public eye. Otherwise it’s just fuel to the fire.
    As a sport I believe our officials are already miles ahead of ‘soccer’ in our coaching, assessment, career progression process, use of technology, and much else. Generally respect for rugby referees is high and there isn’t the volume of abuse that other sports’ officials face. It’s a pity though that there isn’t an external cross-border ‘trade union’, independent of the individual rugby unions, to provide a support network for rugby officials.

  3. Cave Dweller

     /  12 May, 2012

    I myself been defending referees in a couple of forums. The avg supporter lack of knowledge of the rules is disturbing. The commentators as well and help fuel this problem on. Unfortunately one of this sites lined up a pod cast and had the errors what they believe Mr Lawrence has made posted on their site. I answered most of them with video evidence and photo’s I extracted from the video plus posting the laws. For my effort for contributing to a rugby site I was banned with some lame excuse and the guys in charge blocked me from contacting them on twitter. I don’t know but the new Australian trend is to blame referees when they loose. Don’t know if they are stubborn to learn the laws or are looking for excuses but it is disgusting.


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