Stuart Wilson – The Man In The Middle Answers To No One

As a parent I teach my kids accountability, and that if they do something wrong there will be consequences. In my career I am bound by various pieces of legislation and directives – All of which hold consequences should I so something wrong whilst in my role. The same is true for just about every single job and situation on earth.

So naturally I am left puzzled by the impunity that top flight referees in the British game are granted. Quizzed just this week on an internal disciplinary procedure the RFL refused to answer the question.

Coaches, players and staff are fined by the RFL if they publicly have anything other than a gleaming opinion of the man in the middle or his sidekicks running the line. If he is approached mid game the player will be disciplined. In other words what we have is a situation where officials can pretty much do whatever they want – and no one can say anything about it. And if they do something wrong, well, that’s just life.
In many respects I agree, we need to force respect of officials, but there is a line that has very clearly been exceeded to the point that respect has come and gone and now what remains is resentment.

During the 4th round of the Challenge Cup, Phil Bentham (in game) missed the drop kick by Danny Brough that would have put the Giants in front by one point. Bentham missed it, and that is human error. It was an awkward angle which was difficult to determine. But then the kick came up on the huge screen at the John Smiths Stadium and it was clearly a successful drop goal. Why then didn’t Bentham go to the screen, just to back up his own obvious uncertainty? Why didn’t the VR inform Bentham he had the game changing call wrong? Saints then went on to kick their own drop goal which was awarded and they then progressed to the next round.

I should point out that I am a supporter of neither team, but watched the game as did many others, on the BBC which gives our sport national exposure. For the game to end in the way did is damaging to our sport, it makes us a laughing stock. That we introduced the Video Referee but yet in such a critical moment refuse to use it.

I believe it boils down to arrogance and accountability. One of which there is a lot and the other very little. Here we have a man that is supposedly one of the best RL officials in the world, who has technology available, who is supported by two linesmen who are also supposed to be at the top of the game – And yet he makes such a bad error at the most critical point in the game.

Will Bentham be on the park next week – Damn right he will. And he knows it. He will rock up to Red Hall on Monday to go through their weekly performance assessment and there’ll be back slapping and laughing.

The sad reality is that whilst Bentham cracks open a can tonight after a tough days work, the RFL will be directing their efforts at catching out a player or club official that dares to speak out about the fact they were robbed and ultimately left on their arse and out of the challenge cup due to an error by supposedly one of the best officials in the British game.

Enjoy your pint Bentham – See you next week.

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