Rugby TMO system in the spotlight again and club shocked as spectator trips player

Published 08 May 2014 By: Henry Elkington


What constitutes effective use of the TMO system?

The Television Match Official (TMO) referral system is monitored by the International Rugby Board (IRB) who do not want matches being continuously interrupted by unnecessary referrals.

This can disrupt the flow of the game for the players and be a source of irritation for spectators. On Friday 18 April, a game between Harlequins and Leicester Tigers saw so many referrals that the match lasted over two hours which, understandably, frustrated supporters from both teams.

A question for the IRB is whether referees, in general, are using the TMO system as it was intended or are regarding it as a primary, rather than a last resort.

This issue reared its head again in Friday 2 May’s match between Northampton Saints and Bath. In the dying seconds, Bath were given advantage for a supposed penalty, on the intervening advice of the linesman, which, if kicked, would have secured a vital Bath victory. However, as Bath believed they had the advantage, they went for a “shot to nothing” drop goal attempt only to be told that, after a referral to the TMO, it was not a penalty and they had in fact kicked away possession in a scoring position. Bath head coach Mike Ford said- "We are disappointed with what happened in that last penalty because the referee put his arm out and we took a snap drop goal thinking we had a penalty. We are massively disappointed with the use of the TMO there”.

According to the IRB Laws on TMO referral protocol the referee has a wide ambit of what he can refer. It would appear a re-emphasis on the nature of the TMO referral system would be welcomed by the rugby community.


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Spectator trips player

An U16 game between Royston Rugby Club and the Fullerians was witness to a bizarre and deplorable act when a spectator tripped a player. The man in question is believed to be a father of one of the Fullerians players, who were losing 26-5 at the time. The spectator recklessly stuck out his leg and tripped a player running down the touchline only for the incident to be spotted by both the camera and the referee. Play was halted as the referee had to intervene and send the man from the touchline.

Royston Rugby Club president Jamie Johnson said he had never heard of such an 'extraordinary' incident during a youth match and went on to say that 'There is now an investigation taking place within their club and we will also be putting forward our own statement’. Mike Musk, Fullerians’ president called the apparent trip “deplorable”. He said: “I wasn’t there, but I’ve seen the photo. We have had a committee meeting since and will have further meetings.” The spectator has been banned from any Fullerian games until at least December.

RFU Regulation (21.3.1) states that “Temporary Suspension Orders may be issued by the Legal Officer suspending an individual from playing in or attending rugby matches and/or participating in all or any other rugby activity including, for the avoidance of doubt, suspending an individual from being in a Club house when children are or are likely to be present, for such period and on such terms and conditions as the Legal Officer considers fit on a case by case basis”.  

In my opinion, this sort of behaviour is completely unacceptable and is not welcome in the game of Rugby Union, whatever level that be. I therefore echo the sentiments of both the Fullerians and Royston Chairmen that this incident needs to be investigated and a suitable punishment be given.


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Henry Elkington

Henry Elkington

Henry is an aspiring sports lawyer, currently completing his GDL in Cardiff. Henry graduated from the Cardiff University with a B.A. in History and Philosophy. He has a passion for all sports especially rugby and tennis having played for the first team at Cardiff University.

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