Law Discussion: law talk

Thu, 27 Dec 2012 21:47
Large jonathankaplan

This is the age of communication, growing wider and faster by the day. Communication is seen as a virtue. Is it?

This is the age of communication, growing wider and faster by the day. Communication is seen as a virtue. Is it?

Communication is a tool - like a spoon, a screwdriver, a garden spade. They are neither good nor bad but become good when used well. An artist's brush is a tool. It's not a virtue. It takes the artist to put it to use to make the Mona Lisa. This is true of communication and it is true for referees as well who are in modern times encouraged to talk more in the interests of management.

The quality of communication depends on what, when, how. We are going to talk a bit about what.

Rugby football has a law book. It is the game's constitution, its inscape, that which makes it different from all other games. In its foreword that law book says: "The Laws of the Game, including the standard set of variations for Under 19 Rugby and Sevens Rugby, are complete and contain all that is necessary to enable the Game to be played correctly and fairly."

As referees have been more and more required to manage players and explain what they are doing, they have been required to talk more. This has led to forms of referee shorthand - lazy runners, the gate, side entry, truck and trailer, reload, the hit, swimming, crossing, taking up space, running around, hinging, over the cliff, the hammer, upstairs, my pocket, further action, being left no other option and possibly others. Some are not immediately comprehensible - like chasing your feet - but could they not be replaced by terms from the law book and would then be clear and need no further translation?

There were times when there were few of these bits of shorthand that were useful in being expressive, but now there are so many that they become confusing and so often are unnecessary.

They are often euphemisms that reduced the harsh reality. Offside has far more impact than lazy runner and obstruction much more impact than truck-'n-trailer which sounds like a child's Christmas toy.

There are times when the use of these bits of refspeak seem to verge on being a bluff. The referee is afraid to reset a scrum and so penalises, blurting out some formula of his own creation.

If a decision cannot be explained in terms of the laws, it is probably a wrong decision. An infringement should be able to explained in the Langa of the laws. If it cannot be explained in the language of the laws it was probably not an infringement to start with, certainly not one that is clear and obvious.

Let's see if we can replace the shorthand with law words.

lazy runners: offside (at a ruck): - Law 16.5

not coming through the gate: not coming from behind (the tackled player) - Law 15.6 (d)

side entry: not coming from behind (the tackled player) - Law 15.6 (d)

truck and trailer: obstruction - Law 10.1 (b)

reload: get to your feet - Law 15.6 (h)

swimming: unbound and offside (at a maul) - Law 17.2 (b)

crossing: obstruction - Law 10.1

taking up space: obstruction - Law 10.1 (d)

upstairs: the television match official/TMO - Law 6

my pocket: a sanctionary card, yellow or red - Law 10.6

That's a start.

Then there is the scrum, which is a topic on its own - the whole scrum problem and being said. We shall deal with it on its own. So often referees are accused of not knowing what is going in the scrum. Some of the mystifying things referees say give the impression of bluffing, using verbiage to cover for guesswork.