“Decisions made in real time are never perfect. Don’t second guess an operation from an armchair.” So says the over-zealous CIA Deputy Director Noah Vosen in the Bourne Ultimatum.
Referee Craig Joubert probably wishes World Rugby, his governing body, had said something along those lines. Instead, they hung him out to dry.
Its bland statement says that instead of awarding a penalty in the dying moments of the match – which Australia kicked, winning by one point – “the appropriate decision… should have been a scrum to Australia for the original knock-on.” In other words, bad call. Wrong team won.
World Rugby goes on to say: “Despite this experience, Craig has been and remains a world-class referee and an important member of our team.” BFD. Joubert is the scapegoat, end of. He won’t be welcome in Scotland any time soon, that’s for sure.
What on earth was World Rugby hoping to achieve with this statement? It can’t change the outcome of the match. Australia will probably go on to the final now, and if they win, fair play to them. But that semifinal spot should have gone to Scotland. This only fans the flames of injustice.
This whole saga goes deeper than one bad call. The whole role of the referee is under threat. When the stadium is shown the instant replay, but the referee can only use TV for specific decisions, it’s a recipe for disaster. No wonder Joubert ran from the pitch: refs are not trained for this kind of immediate feedback.
Umpires in tennis are now more involved in player behaviour than line calls. Is Nadal wasting time? Is Serena making more death threats? Is Kyrgios… whatever. Football refs still have a lot of autonomy, but goal-line decisions are in place, and it won’t end there. Cricket umpires are still useful, but frequently over-ruled by technology – and it’s only going one way.
In rugby, it feels like this might be the tipping point between human decision and technology. Referees now go to the video for all manner of things before a try – a slight knock-on? A hint of a forward pass? Go to the TMO.
If referees become no more than procedural conduits for decisions taken elsewhere, we are reducing them from the role of judge to that of court clerk. Does the game lose something, other than just the flow? Or are these decisions too important (and too financially costly) to be made by one person?
A big part of sport is second guessing a decision from an armchair. Perhaps after all, Noah Vosen was wrong.
Anyway, to the small matter of some cracking things for you to read from the last week or so…
If you think Craig Joubert robbed Scotland, cast your mind back to the final four years ago. France vs New Zealand. This video shows the shocking refereeing calls that cost France the title. Referee that day? A certain C Joubert.
All the chat you need on last weekend.
The numbers say: go for penalties not tries.
Argentina are the real deal.
Stop complaining part 1: Yaya Toure isn’t happy. Despite wealth and titles, he just wants a little love.
Stop complaining part 2: England football fans, you’ve done OK. Try being Wales. (Sneak preview: “[England fans] are like a child born into a financially comfortable, nurturing home who has inexplicably ended up running the social media account for British Gas.” )
Refugee FC: stay, play.
Kloppety Klopp: give him time. Which is exactly what Brendan Rodgers didn’t get.
WTF (1) has happened to Holland?
WTF (2) has happened to the West Indies?
Bad pitches make bad Tests. How do we incentivise better ones?
So you’ve fixed a match. What do you do with the loot? “Buy a place in Dubai, and sell it two years later.” Seriously?
Golf. Never. Ends. Problem?
Jordan Spieth: what does he do for an encore?
Data alert: crunching the 0-40 hold.
Why the NFL should invest in marijuana. Seriously.
A reminder that they don’t come any bigger than college stadiums.
Bernie Ecclestone confirms his status as defender of graft and friend to dictators everywhere.
That how-do-you-celebrate-a-home-run conundrum: behold the inexorable rise of the bat flip.
Two Harvard undergrads. HU1: “what are you studying?” HU2: “The business secrets of LeBron James.” HU1: “Okaaaaaaay”
The awful moment when your sporting idol starts appearing in insurance ads.
Athlete is gay. Anyone else? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
War? Crisis? Pah, the sport MUST GO ON.
Moving your hands isn’t enough. Bridge isn’t a sport. Get over it.
That’s it, see you next Tuesday.