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2nd June 2018, 20:37 | steve_mascord
CRISIS! The sendings-off of two players in the Leeds-Leigh Challenge Cup match, video of fans abusing referee Chris Kendall and unruly scenes after the Centurions match against Toronto last week have led many to believe rugby league is in strife.
There is no respect for authority. We’re getting too much like soccer. Referees are under siege.
Peter Matautia’s dismissal for a wrestling-style slam on Leeds hooker Matt Parcell didn’t particularly shock anyone at Featherstone on Friday night, although it probably wrecked the game as a contest.
But then in the second half, Leigh’s Matt Dawson joined the course of dissent on the terraces and was given his marching orders. At the end of the night there was unedifying footage of fans getting within a few metres of referee Chris Kendall as he deliberated on a try and giving him what is colloquially known as a gobful.
Only the previous night, York player Ben Cockayne lamented while watching Huddersfield-Catalans that the “amount of rugby league players carrying on like footballers these days is embarrassing”.
He was referring to players taking dives to attract penalties.
How should the game respond to this criticism? In a sense, it shouldn’t.
If we say police today aren’t what they used to be, does that make them enforce the law more stringently? You would hope not. Policing should be like the tide coming in once a day - completely unrelated to what someone does or does not say.
Chris Kendall copped so much on Friday night and then reacted by giving Dawson the red card. It must have been quite a spray. In previous columns I’ve written about respect coming with the uniform when you’re a referee. You don't get that message through to ill-disciplined fans and players by just saying it.
The answer is actually quite simple: keep flashing red and yellow cards until there’s no-one left on the pitch. Suspend fans who are caught on camera abusing referees. Fine or dock points from clubs whose staff can’t control themselves after games. Don't let the video referee intervene unless it's a reportable offence.
Make statements on why you are taking these actions.
Consensus and goodwill only get you so far and increasingly in rugby league, that’s not far at all.
The game’s image as a family sport will only be upheld by rules and action. There’s only a crisis if we allow there to be.