Juniors: Protecting our Match Officials (a message from CRRL)

Protecting our Match Officials - Please read (a message from CRRL)

Hello Rugby League supporters

We are looking forward to another great rugby league season.

We would like to share with you an article from the Canberra Times today, March 7, 2024.

The article is attributed to Community Sport ACT which is an organisation that represents the nine largest sports in the ACT; they being the CRRL (Rugby League), Cricket ACT, Capital Football (soccer), AFL, Brumbies Community, Basketball ACT, Tennis ACT, ACT Hockey, Netball ACT.

Therefore, the CRRL fully endorses the theme that we have to protect our match officials and I am sure that you, as supporters of the game, would also support this sentiment.

We, as the rugby league community, must hold ourselves to account and not make excuses when referee abuse occurs.
We need to hold our people to account because we cannot replace the referees we lose and we all lose, as match officials drop out and our children and players miss out on match officials.

Could you please read the article and share with your club, fellow supporters and players.

Together, let’s make 2024 the year of the Match Official and give them all the support we can and stop referee abuse from on the field and the sidelines.

Thank you and have a great 2024 rugby league season.

Mark Vergano OAM
General Manager

Why we need to maintain zero tolerance on ref abuse
By Community Sport Alliance of the Act
March 7 2024 – 5:30am

Without match officials, community sport would not survive.
Match officials are a significant, and highly valuable, component of community sport and of its front-line workers.
Invariably they bear the brunt of participants’ frustrations while dealing with the ebbs and flows of sporting contests.
At face value, the disrespectful attitudes and treatment towards match officials by a small proportion of participants (e.g. players, coaches, spectators and club administrators) would be considered as bullying and harassment in nearly all other settings in life. People who seek to disrespect match officials should ask themselves – “would I like myself or my family members to be treated this way?”

Abuse of match officials include personal choice moments, such as:
• a parent losing their head on the sideline because their child didn’t receive a free kick/throw/hit;
• a coach openly venting frustration that their team is not getting favourable decisions;
• a spectator bellowing that a match official is cheating or incompetent;
• a participant rage farming on social media to undermine the performance of match officials;

Without referees, community sport doesn’t have a great future.

Rarely, if ever, do these moments achieve the desired outcome of match officials changing their decisions or interpretation of a rule/law. They can, however, have an impact on whether people continue giving their time and effort to being a match official.
It would be valuable for people to reflect on: what situations in life are better when people are harangued or denigrated rather than encouraged or supported?
Match officials operate in a setting that is often about the pursuit of winning. It would be invaluable if all participants knew how to accept:
• losing – appreciating that not everything in life is going to go your way;
• things in sport aren’t perfect – being able to show the best of yourself, to yourself and to others;
• decisions that affect you – even if these are wrong sometimes, knowing life is not fair at times;
• coping with adversity – knowing that in trying to win at something you will always encounter opponents;
• we are all humans – making mistakes is all part of life.
Nowadays sporting organisations need to devote considerable resources towards attracting and retaining match officials, examples of this support include:
• specific competition weekends to recognise the role of match officials;
• the use of hi-vis uniforms for referee trainees;
• the promotion of inclusive behaviour programs, e.g. “Play by the Rules”;
All community sports place a high priority on attracting, developing and retaining match officials through training, mentor support and feedback to ensure they can do the job to the best of their ability.
The retention of match officials is challenging – made more difficult when they are abused and feel unsafe at a sporting contest. Every participant can contribute to an environment that encourages match officials to keep turning up, week-in and week-out. No match officials will mean no community sport.

The reality is that the role of a match official is best learnt on the job – with a blend of trained and intuitive attributes. It requires decision making on the run along with a solid understanding and interpretation of myriad rules/laws. The defining qualities are often judgement and consistency, which are subjective elements.
Importantly, the role also enables these officials to be part of a community group.
The notion of zero tolerance for abuse towards match officials is not unreasonable. Raising the issue of awareness is important for addressing the negative behaviour and/or abuse directed at them. Using the terms “zero tolerance” and “abuse” help raise awareness, albeit in a rather dramatic way.
All sports organisations do have mechanisms for providing constructive feedback on officials’ performance.
Community sport club officials should be using these opportunities to good effect.
Match officials (referees, umpires, timekeepers, touch judges) do have a tough job. This is not to say they are infallible, but it is about protecting those people who are prepared to facilitate community sporting contests and therefore will always be vital to community sport.
Sport has a great capacity to:
• bring people together;
• get people engaged and connected;
• offer people a common sense of purpose, and;
• enable people to contribute to something greater than themselves.
Match officials are part of this valuable mix.
Leadership in gaining shared responsibility for community cohesion and togetherness has many dimensions. For sport, this is when coaches, managers, club officials and parents can provide good role modelling. Using teachable moments can help others find better ways to:
• interact with others;
• deal with disappointment;
• adapt to uncertainty;
• sensibly use social media.
Ultimately, we believe that it should be everyone’s responsibility who is involved in community sport to ensure that all sporting places are safe, respectful, and welcoming.

Thank you