Lloyd Burnard

Don't let rugby go down soccer's path

2017-02-27 13:07
Lloyd Burnard

Cape Town - Football may have been the beautiful game once, but not anymore. 

It encourages cheating, is drenched in money-fuelled entitlement and has no regard for authority. 

For far too long now, players have been staging anguish - cheating - in an attempt to convince a referee of a wrong that never existed. 

While half-hearted attempts have been made by football authorities to control simulation, there is a general acceptance that it will remain forever.

That such a form of cheating has all but been accepted speaks volumes about the state of the game. 

An even more disturbing concern that sees the overall product border on disgusting is the manner in which players react to a referee's decision. 

Most people who have played any level of sport accept that the referee's decision is final.

It comes from a respect that is embedded in you when you understand the true nature of representing a team; a respect for your team-mates, your opposition and the referee. 

Such respect is absent on a football pitch. 

A referee is surrounded by 20 screaming toddlers every time he blows his whistle - players stamping their feet, throwing their arms into the air and screaming uncontrollably. It would be comical if it wasn't so flipping embarrassing. 

That it is the same childish players who ultimately hold the power in world football is even more depressing. 

Leicester City provided the sport with one of its greatest stories of all time last year, and the man behind that success was a man who understood the importance of values and respect. 

He believed in a group of players who were given no chance, and together they achieved something that will be remembered for generations.

Then, after a tough few months, he was cast aside. It is hard to find honour in football sometimes. 

In rugby, for now, it is a little easier. 

Referees, whether they are right or wrong, are generally left alone after a decision. It is the way it should always be. If a team has a major issue, then it should be the captain and nobody else doing the talking.

Unfortunately, that ship seems to have sailed in football. And instead of waving it back to shore, it may make more sense to wave it goodbye and move on from the WWE-like drama these players look to create.

Now, rugby must make sure that it does not go down a similar path. 

There is no cause for major concern just yet, but there are signs that the sport needs to be on its toes. 

As referees continue to be stricter on dangerous play, there are more and more penalties being awarded for what seem like less and less threatening infringements. 

Safety is paramount, and World Rugby's push for players to have an appreciation of the rules should be applauded, but there is a line that needs to be monitored carefully.

It hasn't happened regularly or blatantly enough for somebody to be blamed yet, but just recently there have been renewed concerns that simulation could creep its way into the game. 

World Rugby came out hard towards the middle of last year on the matter, stating that any player who was found guilty of simulation could be banned or fined. 

But with more attention than ever on neck rolls, high ball contests, late tackles, high tackles and armless tackles there is more chance of a referee feeling the need to intervene. 

The punishment for dangerous play is often a card, which can change a game. 

Players are not stupid, and they know this. Milking penalties is nothing new at the breakdown, but when it starts affecting the way ball carriers are operating, then we are heading into dangerous territory. 

A player ducking into contact can make a tackle seem high, a player over-exaggerating a body movement can make a neck roll seem more dangerous and a player hitting the deck can make a tackle seem late or dangerous. 

It is something that needs to be monitored closely - possibly through TMO intervention - and punished heavily, and certain moments in this past weekend's Super Rugby action suggested as much. 

As entertaining as football is to watch, it all too often heads into territory where the essence of sport is lost.

That is the last thing that rugby needs. 

Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24

Read more on:    super rugby  |  soccer  |  rugby
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