Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 29 May 2016

Biting Back: Should rugby follow football's example by holding referees to account

By Jim Gracey

Published 07/04/2014

Ulster's Jared Payne is given the red card by referee Jérôme Garcès for his tackle on Saracens' Alex Goode
Ulster's Jared Payne is given the red card by referee Jérôme Garcès for his tackle on Saracens' Alex Goode

From creaking, old Windsor and 1,800 football diehards rattling around in a stadium that once housed 40,000, to resplendent Ravenhill, packed to its new 18,000 capacity and looking and sounding magnificent in all its refurbished pomp.

That was this writer's Saturday beat and what lessons were learned? Football still has the better songs, some albeit in doubtful taste, but 'Ulst-errr' now has by far and away the better stadium and infrastructure for future development and success.

That is not to use the incredible advances of rugby here in recent years as a stick to beat football's slower learners, but rather to accentuate and exploit the positives.

There is much the Irish FA, and to a lesser degree the GAA, given their amateur ethos, can take from the Ravenhill model and incorporate in their own embryonic Windsor and Casement. A marvellous connection bonds the Ulster team and supporters in a magnificent fan friendly stadium, designed with families and the disabled in mind, underpinned by a sound business plan.

The message for football especially is – if you cannot come up with your own ideas, borrow the best of others. By replicating the Ravenhill example, the football poor relation has a great opportunity to match the strides made by rugby and gaelic games in recent times.

And, in fairness to football, the learning curve is not all one way. Witnessing the costly and harsh-looking red carding of Jared Payne, the thought occurred... with so much at stake in their game today, should rugby not to be thinking of following football's example in holding referees to account when their decision making is shown to be game-changingly wrong?

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