Editorial: Citing from the sidelines
What an interesting situation. A spectator at a South Canterbury rugby match citing a player.
But should spectators be allowed to do this?
There are reasons why it's not a good idea.
There are trained officials specifically charged with dealing with foul play. A spectator might not have the skills to properly identify foul play. A spectator might have a personal vendetta against a player, or be motivated in some other way. Complaints might come from over-protective parents, or people watching from home. And if spectator complaints did become commonplace, it would be a nightmare for the union.
And there are reasons why it's a good idea.
The officials may have genuinely missed a serious incident, and a complaint from a spectator is the only way it will be investigated. And a player might think twice before indulging in foul play if they knew all eyes were on them (okay, that one's not that likely).
Interestingly, the New Zealand Rugby Union's rules do not specifically support a spectator citing a player.
Apart from various officials, complaints can be laid by "all other persons".
But the definition of person is "a member of any club ... for the time being for the purpose of playing, coaching, administering or refereeing".
The complainant in this case, Robbie Rankin, is a club member but was not fulfilling any of those roles.
The South Canterbury union, though, has the view that if an alleged serious incident is brought to its attention, it has a duty to investigate, regardless of who the complaint comes from.
You could argue that is a responsible approach, although it opens up the union to the issues raised above. If it stuck to the letter of the law, Rankin's club would have had to either take the matter up on his behalf, or let it drop. For whatever reason, it did not.
The union has now investigated and found no evidence to take the complaint further, so that's the end of things.
But whether the local union thinks it or not, this has certainly been an unusual situation.
The Timaru Herald