Rugby League - RFL demands respect for referees

The Rugby Football League has reiterated its determination to clamp down on any abuse of referees.

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The game's governing body moved to protect the reputation of a sport which prides itself on the respect shown to match officials in the wake of England forward Gareth Hock's dismissal for using foul and abusive language to an in-goal judge.

Hock was given a one-match ban for a foul-mouthed tirade during Widnes' Super League match against Bradford last Friday but the RFL was thought to have been dismayed by subsequent criticism of the sending-off.

Vikings coach Denis Betts described the decision by referee Robert Hicks as "atrocious and an absolute joke", insisting that players should not be shown a red card for swearing. Blake Solly, the RFL's director of standards and licensing, warned that the governing body is not prepared to relax its attitude towards any player who undermines the authority of match officials.

"The RFL will do all within its powers to maintain the sport's reputation as one which has respect for match officials and trust in the decisions they make," said Solly. "Anyone who believes we should take a less hard line on those who verbally abuse match officials is doing the sport a great disservice.

"Rugby league is the envy of many sports around the world for the way in which the authority of its match officials is recognised by players and coaches and we will do all within our powers to maintain that reputation.

"The day we see referees, touch-judges and in-goal judges being harangued, badgered and bullied like they are in some sports would be a very sad day for all. Referees may not get every decision correct but they do a difficult job very well.

"Just as it is unacceptable for someone to use foul language to a player when he drops a pass or for a coach to be abused for making a poor team selection, we are not prepared to stand by and allow the status of our match officials to be undermined."

Solly's comment came as the RFL announced that three other players have been charged with using foul and abusive language to match officials.

Keighley player-coach Paul March, who played in Super League for Wakefield and Huddersfield, and Workington's former Hull prop forward Jamie Thackray will appear before the RFL disciplinary committee next Tuesday, along with Hull KR academy player Ryan Devaney. They were charged by the RFL's match-review panel.

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