Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Lewis Moody, Gouging, and Referees

The Stade Francais vs Leicester rugby match at the weekend was full of controversy, most notably centring around an alleged eye gouging incident. Lewis Moody emerged from one ruck with a nasty welt in his eye, and needed treatment for a blood wound in the area. He was angrily jabbing his finger to indicate he had been gouged, and lost both his contact lenses in the incident. As the perpetrator could not have been spotted by the referee, no action was taken; it seems likely the citing official will also have been unable to identify the culprit.

I don't think this is an excuse for not taking action, however. I'm not an expert on the ins and outs of rucks and mauls, thankfully, but my suspicion is that the nature of the injury could only have been caused by deliberate foul play, whether through fingers or an errant boot. In situations like this, it is very easy to take action against the offending team.

The referee should simply call the captain of the team over, and tell him to talk to his team and find the perpetrator. If he fails to return with a name, then the referee should send the captain off, for being incapable of controlling his team on the field. After all, the captain is supposed to be the representative of his team and responsible for their actions. I'm pretty certain if referees were to do that, we'd soon find that gouging stopped pretty quickly, and that perpetrators were identified sharpish, too.

Claiming that there is insufficient evidence to identify a culprit is a cop-out; a failure to take action against behaviour strictly against the laws of the game and intended to deliberately injure an opponent. And if the players won't take responsibility for their actions, then their captain should. Foul play should not be tolerated - and if the rugby authorities had more balls, it wouldn't be.