Thursday, June 05, 2008

Exploring the ELVs - Assistant Referees

The implentation of the ELVs will be here before we know it - August 1 to be specific. Since they effect EVERYONE - 7s, 15s, u19, etc - I thought it would be interesting to discuss them in detail, in sequence, and talk about how they may impact us at the grass roots level, and see if we can have some Q&A, now, before all the changes happened. An excerpt from the IRB ELV Guide is first, with my commentary below. Feel free to join the discussion!

[ ------ Begin IRB Excerpt ----- ]

Experimental Law Variation 1 Law 6 - Match Officials
Assistant referees are able to assist the referee in any way that the referee requires.

What this means for the Game
When appointed by a match organizer, e.g. a Rugby Union, SANZAR, ERC, etc., qualified touch judges will be known as assistant referees and can, at the discretion of the referee, be assigned additional responsibilities.

This Experimental Law Variation is designed to allow assistant referees to provide additional information to the referee to assist in decision making.

Every match is under the control of match officials who consist of the referee and two touch judges or assistant referees. Additional persons, as authorized by the match organizers, may include the referee, reserve touch judge and/or assistant referee, an official to assist the referee in making decisions by using technological devices, the time keeper, the match doctor, the team doctors, the non-playing members of the teams and the ball persons.

A touch judge may be appointed by a match organizer or a team involved in a match and is responsible for signaling, touch, touch-in-goal and the success or otherwise of kicks at goal. An assistant referee may be appointed by a match organizer and is kesponsible for signaling, touch, touch-in-goal, the success or otherwise of kicks at goal and indicating foul play. An assistant referee will also provide assistance to the referee in the performance of any of the referee’s duties as directed by the referee.

[ ------ End IRB Excerpt ----- ]

Opinions, projections, and speculation

So basically what this law is saying is, if the Touch Judge is "qualified", he or she may be designated as an "Assistant Referee". Well, this kind of happens, now, certainly at Nationals, at Test matches, and and some LAU/TU championship games, and at National All Star Championship venues. It sort of sounds like this is simply formalizing the role of "qualified" touch judges as bone fide assistant referees.

What does "qualified" mean? Does it mean that the individual has completed a formal Touch Judge certification course, or do you need to complete a Referee certification course?

And who, for our purposes on the ground, in our routine matches, is the Match organizer? Ref society? LAUs? Agreement between match secretaries? In most of the matches I'm involved with, there's a ref, and each team contributes a touch judge. Often times that person is a replacement player, an injured player, a friend of the team, alumni, or a coach. Sometimes (seldom) that individual is a certified ref, but they are almost NEVER a neutral party with no interest in the outcome.

The language here - "A touch judge may be appointed by a match organizer or a team involved in a match and is responsible for signaling, touch, touch-in-goal and the success or otherwise of kicks at goal" indicated to me that we are formalizing the varying role of "touch judge" vs "assistant ref". A "touch judge" gets to weigh in on the stuff they've been weighing in on forever (touch & kicks), and an "assistant referee" gets to weigh in on the stuff the touch judge does, PLUS specifically FOUL PLAY, plus specifically anything else the Referee tells them to weigh in on.

I'm personally just fine with this, it seems like it's mostly about role delineation, though I don't expect we're going to see assistant referees outside of championship matches for a while, we just don't have the resources. As the rule reads, "match organizers" assign assistant referees, "match organizers or teams" assign touch judges. Works for me.

Any thoughts?

1 Comment:

Gabe said...


I think you hit the nail on the head with this one (as is the case with a few of the other ELVs) which is that the IRB is simply putting pen to paper on a number of things that are already happening. Refs, when graced the presence of other refs as touch judges, will often look for their help on calls and play ahead/behind the ball. Touch judges, as we know from watching on the sideline, often have a better look at some of those forward passes, hands in the ruck (if a player knows where the "official ref" is standing), etc... this ELV now makes it official that if appointmented by the ref, the Assistant Ref can HELP with those calls.

I agree that only times we will see this specific ELV put in place would be at championships, all stars, etc-- where there are an abundance of ref/touch judges.