Coveting consistency

The incumbent law-set’s biggest shortfall is that it favours subjectivity over consistency, says Springbok and Stormers assistant coach Gary Gold.

There’s been debate ad nauseam on the topic, and next month the IRB will decide whether to retain or bullet the ELVs.

There have been complaints from coaches and players that the ELVs preclude a structured contest. The majority of the complaints centre around the standard of refereeing or lack thereof, as officials are encouraged to make judgement calls rather than stick to the lawbook.

The breakdown has been a point of contention especially under the hybrid ELVs utilised in the Super 14 and Tri-Nations. The short-arm sanction encourages defending players to push the boundaries as there is little risk of conceding a penalty. That is, until the referee loses patience, and the fact that every referee differs in this respect is problematic.

Gold, a supporter of the ELVs, believes this is something that needs to change.

‘I think the only thing that would need to change is the legislation given to the referees by the law-makers,’ he told ‘The real problem around the ELVs is the absence of a universal standard in how they are applied.

‘There are a number of things a referee can penalise at any breakdown and, under the old laws, he would look for these offences in a particular order. That’s why referees were more consistent, as they were looking for these offences and knew the offence was either a free-kick or a penalty, not because it was his judgement call, but because it was the law.

‘The biggest problem with the ELVs is they are interpreted differently. Certain referees are harsher on certain aspects and that’s why there is often a lot of frustration, especially at the breakdown.’

The standard of refereeing in this year’s Super 14 has been slammed on both sides of the Indian Ocean, but most critics have agreed the ELVs are largely to blame.

Would the law-makers decide to amend the breakdown laws, for example, adopting a three strikes and you’re penalised policy, fewer coaches, players and indeed supporters would complain about the inconsistency. Infringements in the red zone could be penalised outright. Repeated infringements in the red zone would warrant a yellow card.

It would alleviate the pressure on the referee, who at present plays too big a role in the flow of each game. It’s ridiculous when players and coaches admit to preparing for each game according to who will be officiating.

The circus has been in town long enough and unless these subtle changes can be made, perhaps it is best the entire law-set was binned.

By Jon Cardinelli