Fans paying price for cards ‘disaster’

Players who commit acts of foul play must be sent off, but something must be done to stop their dismissals from robbing the game of a fair contest, argues MARK KEOHANE.

In Super Rugby Pacific, Reds lock Angus Blyth will miss three games for his late and dangerous tackle that concussed Brumbies wing Corey Toole last week. Blyth was initially yellow carded by referee Ben O’Keefe, a punishment upgraded to a 20-minute red card by the TMO under new Super Rugby laws.

It follows former Springbok, now respected pundit Schalk Burger’s criticism of the decision to red card Emmanuel Tshituka, that reduced the Lions to 14 men for three-quarters of their Challenge Cup last-16 win against Racing 92.

In his TimesLIVE column, Keohane suggests that this past weekend’s action, up north and in the southern hemisphere, was marred by some of the “worst officiating in the game” and the application of the laws down to “horrendous” interpretation of the match officials.

“The card system, so liberally employed by match officials, is influencing the outcomes of matches more than the try-scoring talents or goal-kicking excellence,” he writes.

“So many matches these days feel like robbery and there isn’t even a consistency in the robbery because it depends on who has the whistle, who is running the touchline and who is sitting in a little room in the guise of a television match official.

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“A player should cop the consequence of his action. His teammates should not be the victims of one individual’s thuggery or implosion. The fans should also not have to roll the dice before kick-off as to whether there will be a contest of 15 plays 15.

“Send the offending player off, but allow for him to be replaced to keep the numbers at 15 plays 15. Rugby’s global leadership surely can’t ignore the obvious anymore and see how the lethal cocktail of incompetence, bias and contrasting interpretations is ruining the sport.

“Give us back our game of rugby when 15 plays 15 for 80 minutes and the ill-disciplined thug of an individual is dealt with and the contest, as a collective, is not compromised.”

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