This is my opinion as a writer – i would like to hear/read yours
It’s human nature to make mistakes in any field or life endeavor, but when mistakes accrue over time then questions have to be asked whether past errors have been learnt from.
The standard of the officials are what align the game in any given sporting discipline – their influence can either spark positive or negative change. It’s one thing for losing sides to rant in a case of “sour grapes” after a game where they feel hard done by referees but it’s another when the issues are recurring to the extent that the fans to whom rugby as a brand is sold start to notice.
Earlier last season, the Entebbe Mongers’ home ground ; house of pain was temporarily suspended from hosting games when fans stormed the pitch to end what was a badly officiated game – a few months down the road and frustration continues as the Mongers Facebook page puts out a statement expressing their disgust on officiation in a recently concluded Uganda cup tie.
About two years ago, Pirates were denied an opportunity to deservedly claim victory against Heathens at Kyadondo when the ref stretched the game beyond the normal time while creating absurd calls; one after the other till the home side scored – this referee was later supposedly punished but nothing was done about the outcome of the game and its impact on the losing team.
Last season, The Makerere Impis prematurely ended a game at the Legends rugby grounds over what was deemed to be another case of dubious officiating over a yellow / red card given that saw the entire team walk off.
The latest incident of one sided officiating in the recently concluded league game between Kobs and Warriors led me to ask several questions that I think should have been asked long time ago but for one reason or the other, nothing has been said or done.
Having done an impromptu survey, asking around a number of fans and die hards of the game, many were of the view that refereeing is a lost cause to fight and it’s something that had been accepted as normal.
Some of the remarks among the many people interacted with
My question is, “ why do we choose to accept mediocrity yet we set goals that demand greatness ?” – We want to make the world cup, be the number one side on the continent, rub shoulders with the top seeds but we forget that such steps of grandeur start from the simple basics such as having local league stakeholders in sync. But when the teams and fans seem to have a vote of no confidence in the officials then what are we really trying to achieve.
The saddest and probably, the sickest cancer is when teams turn a blind eye to the matter because it hasn’t affected them in the particular time only to cry out for justice when the plague finally knocks on their door.
I still think it is wrong to call out clubs on allegations of paying refs until concrete evidence is produced but one thing is for sure – the level of refereeing is sadly low and we aren’t even sure if they have a serious disciplinary or assessment committee that helps them right their wrongs and also punishes them, same way players get punishments for their deeds.
It is appalling because it seems like refs and players have two different hand books of the rules yet you would think that prior briefing for the league is done with every team on which rules to go by if there are changes to be made.
Some might call this a bunch of conspiracy theories, which is the easy thing to do but the fans have spoken too and sadly players speak as well but in shadows, fearing a greater beast that i am yet to see. No one hates the refs or certain teams but sometimes situations get too obvious that you actually smell a rat. The unfortunate bit is that it mostly affects the upcoming teams which is a big “demoralizer” and stunts the growth of the game right from the mindset of “this is Ugandan rugby and such is how things are done”
It is a pathetic conundrum that we need to change – we need an independent body inclusive of players’ union representatives (something that has to also be created) or team representatives to analyze refereeing and ensure that assessment is done, progress is monitored after assessment and in cases of persistent substandard displays, punishment is effected. The challenge with this is the low number of referees that one could say; holds the sport ransom in that it is hard to suspend when you barely have enough numbers to manage the league.
The touch judges aren’t making the referees jobs any easier – with slight exception of very few, majority simply spectate and raise the flag when the ball finds touch or during conversions yet I would think that they are the first line of counsel to the ref in the heat of the game since they are on the sides.
Players aren’t saints too
Same applies for players whose discipline should be checked to protect the referees who are human too and error from time to time – the officials’ safety is key.
If we want the sport to grow, all parties should be answerable and the issue of refereeing should be looked into with more sophisticated training that includes psychological shaping to help them handle the challenges of pressure and frustration without losing their expected impartiality.