Dave Craven: Is it time to pull the plug on Super League’s video referees?

Is there a future for the video referee?
Is there a future for the video referee?
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I CANNOT quite believe I’m suggesting this but is it time to get rid of video referees altogether?

I’m normally a fan of technology and “innovation” but I think it has got to the stage where match officials off the pitch are in fact at times now damaging the game.

Doing away with them completely might be an over-reaction, in fairness, but I do feel the way they are used needs to be adapted considerably in 2016.

The sport is supposed to be renowned for its pace, excitement and free-flowing nature yet more and more it seems the televised games – which are meant to be the pick of the fixtures each week and showcasing rugby league at its best – are becoming irritating due to regular delays and stoppages caused by so many decisions going to the video referees.

The case in point was Thursday night’s game between Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers when match official James Child sent numerous such calls on “tries” to his colleague upstairs amid great derision – sometimes for not just getting on and awarding them himself – and confusion given some of the final bewildering decisions that actually came back to him.

Social media was awash with criticism of Child and the video officials for some of those end results which are always open to such “interpretations”, something which, admittedly, is probably not making their jobs any easier.

Part of the problem is the fact that replays of the “tries” in question are obviously shown in the ground and, of course, on television, too. It might be easier, instead, for all concerned if that footage isn’t broadcast and the video officials themselves are the only ones who see the images.

This would perhaps prevent supporters, players, coaches and media alike getting so agitated when it seems a call made is blatantly incorrect.

As it stands more of the debate currently around the game is often on referees’ ineptness at times rather than the actual quality of football players are generating on the pitch.

Furthermore, the televised games are struggling for the rhythm and beat of those that aren’t covered live by broadcasters. More often than not, a Sunday game will have a flow to it that can rarely be associated with the bitty nature of the televised games.

Countless people I overheard at Headingley at half-time uttered words along the lines of: “It is going to drive people away from the game if it carries on like this...”. There is a grain of truth in that; no one wants to spend a Thursday or Friday evening watching countless replays and sometimes still seeing incorrect decisions being reached.

The match official is not helped by the ludicrous rule whereby he has to decide whether or not he thinks it is a try or not before asking his colleagues to rule.

Surely he isn’t certain and that’s why he’s asking for help so why even ask his view and place him open to ridicule when others can overturn his decision having had the benefit of viewing the incident an inordinate number of times and from countless angles and slow motions

So, don’t screen everything as is the case now and perhaps have a time limit – 30 seconds maybe? – for the officials to decide without all this rigmarole.

Something needs to be done to tidy it all up and stop this growing malaise.