Love and Fury for Rugby Referee erupts after match


By Vimal Perera 

S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia ( STC) won the Canon De Saram Trophy on the 26th beating Trinity College Kandy (TCK) by 17 points to 14, in a match where Thomian grit prevailed over an indisciplined Trinity side, that gave away around six penalties in the first ten minutes. They were also lucky not to be shown a red card for dangerous tackles – taking a man in the air and kicking on the head. 

An ugly incident marred the game after the match. First, a player walked up to the Referee after the final whistle and was physical. Next, a woman assaulted Referee Isuru Perera as he left the ground. Then, as if that was not enough, a man pushed another official while using language that would have put to shame the local Billingsgate ‘mariakade’. 

What possibly was the reason for this unlikely TCK behaviour? Was it because a player was shown a yellow card in the final moments of the game for continuously dissenting the Referee’s decisions? He started questioning the Referee from around the 57th minute. If the card had been shown earlier, this would have perhaps reduced the indiscipline and the game better managed. 

On the other hand, TCK was lucky not to be shown a red card for taking a man in the air and another for the kick in the head of an STC player. According to sources of the Referees Society, an investigation is being conducted by the Police.

Schools’ rugby becomes passionate as the old boys get emotional, and the flare-up is more significant than in a club game. The sordid behaviour of the supporters is in no way suitable for the game played by schoolboys.

First, STC is responsible as hosts to provide adequate security for the Referee. There were numbers of big burly bouncers around; yet how did a spectator get close enough to assault the Referee? Probably they did not expect a spectator to carry out an attack. 

According to Old Boys of the School, even if the Referee’s performance resulted in losing the match, the behaviour of the perpetrators of violence is unacceptable. The culprit who instigated those around is a staff member. 

The President of the Referees Society has received a message from the Trinity Principal, Rev. Fr. Araliya Jayasundera, assuring an immediate inquiry will be called for, and if any player, staff or coach is involved directly or indirectly, steps will be taken to punish them, as such indecent behaviour is not acceptable. No one at Trinity condones such hooliganism. The Reverend Father rightly calls it hooliganism. 

The issue that arises is – who is responsible for maintaining the discipline of the game? The Secretary of Schools Rugby opined that this is a friendly encounter and not in the Schools’ programme; therefore, the responsibility of security is with the host team. I asked him whether the two schools are affiliated with the Schools section, and he said they were, but insisted that this is a friendly fixture. I asked him what would happen if the assault on a referee occurred or a red card shown to a player in a non-competition match such as the Bradby? On the other hand, no responsibility is present other than that of the host team; what will happen if the referees do not officiate in non-competition friendly games? He said that presently these matches are played with the approval of the Ministry of Education, and the request is through the Schools’ rugby section. 

Therefore, there is an indirect approval and an inquiry held on the present situation involving students. 

In the present situation, refraining from officiating in matches played by Trinity is a possibility. However, the sources also said that they would have to get an express covering of responsibility of the Schools’ section or from the Union if they are to referee non-competition matches in the future. Ceylon Today understands that some of the players were playing the 2021 season and are after the Advanced Level examination. 

Therefore, there will be little the host school and or the other participating team can do unless the Schools’ section takes a degree of responsibility and imposes the necessary sanctions through Sri Lanka Rugby. In the alternative, officiating in such friendly matches will have to be after the playing team gets the governing body’s approval, as any disciplinary action has a global impact.