Rugby referee confronts parents' bad sideline behaviour
Rugby referee David Walsh has copped his fair share of criticism during his 30-year career, but now he wants to blow the whistle on those who boo officials.
The call has come in the same week as Wellington schoolboy, Jack Riley, penned a letter criticising the treatment of referees.
Walsh, Wellington Rugby Referees' Association referee education officer, has spoken about the challenges facing the country's match officials who were often on the receiving end of sideline abuse.
A week ago, Walsh was confronted by poor sideline behaviour from screaming supporters watching a match at an under-11 tournament. He was forced to take immediate action.
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"I stopped the game stone dead and turned to the crowd and said that their behaviour needs to change or they will be required to leave the sideline.
"They were all yelling at 11-year-old kids, and part of the problem is that they don't know what's going on from a rules perspective," Walsh said.
The incident has come to light in week three of Stuff's campaign to kick booing into touch from the country's sports fields.
The organisation has adopted an anti-booing stance in a bid to promote better sideline behaviour.
Walsh said some fans believed they had a right to yell at referees, particularly professional referees as they were being paid for their time.
However, Walsh disagreed and, worryingly, felt the situation was worse for lower-tier referees.
"It's the next level down where nobody's being paid. They're all still doing it because they want to enjoy their sport ... and the people on the sideline or the people involved in running teams have a different opinion.
"Sometimes, to be perfectly honest, they express it in particularly unsavoury manners."
Walsh denounced what he called a "pack mentality" amongst some fans.
"One of the problems is when someone has something to say, everyone else seems to think it's acceptable and joins in," Walsh said.
"It was only a couple of weeks ago I actually removed someone from the playing field ... this person was screaming about things happening on the field.
"I just stopped the game and said 'right, you've got to leave. Otherwise, the game won't carry on ... he wasn't particularly keen on going, but there were two choices—him going or no rugby.'"
Walsh has received a sympathetic ear from 11-year-old Jack Riley.
The first XV forward crafted a letter about the booing of referees as part of a writing exercise at Wellesley College.
"Professional referees have been booed too much really," his letter read. "It's got to stop."
"Referees are booed massively when they make a call going against the home team. These referees are professionals. They know what they are doing, so just let them ref the game," Jack wrote.
Jack argued that booing officials would increase pressure on them and could lead to them making mistakes, particularly if the referee lacked experience.
He felt booing and jeering from adults set a poor example for young people. "It's bad for everyone."
- Sunday Star Times