Footballisation of rugby #4: Abusing officials

The last month has seen a couple of unsavoury incidents on the rugby field that were related to verbal abuse of match officials. Although the two examples were played in different tournaments in different countries, the resulting judiciary outcomes highlight the huge inconsistencies in the way offences and suspensions are dealt with across professional rugby.


Silvere Tian – Oyannax

Tian was playing for Oyannax in a Top 14 game when he was yellow carded by international referee Roman Poite for a technical infringement on the floor. Unfortunately Tian’s frustration got the better of him and an expletive ridden tirade followed which resulted in Poite brandishing a red card.


There are a number of translations available for the Anglophones amongst us which vary slightly, but the following will give you a reasonable idea of what he said to Poite:

“You’re pissing me off [using a more aggressive French term] that was nothing”.

After being given the red card: “I’ll come get you after, you son of a whore”.

Not great and Tian had to be restrained after the game as Poite headed down the tunnel before being restrained by his team mates.

The Oyannax full back has now been given a 15 month suspension from the game for his actions.


Gary Gold – Sharks Coach

Gold is currently the head coach at the Sharks, who play in the Super Rugby tournament. In the recent game against the Crusaders at the end of March Gold was found guilty of two breaches of the competition rules which related to his verbal abuse of the Television Match Official (TMO).

Gold admitted approaching the TMO twice during the game, (65th and 71st minutes) and used crude and insulting language toward the Match Official.

The two breaches were:

  • “That no person may engage, or attempt to engage with a TMO during a Match in relation to the TMOs officiating in the Match.”
  • “All persons shall not use crude, insulting or abusive language towards Match Officials.”

Gold was given a fine of about £8,000 and no suspension.


Compare and Contrast

The first thing to note is that the major difference between the two cases is that Tian’s verbal abuse extended to threats against the official. We can assume that Gold ‘s abuse was not so dramatic, but given Super Rugby don’t release the full disciplinary hearing findings we can only postulate what was said.

How much of Tian’s ban related to the threat, and not just the verbal abuse is difficult to assess but we must assume some of the total ban was because of the abusive language used.

Here at theblitzdefence we support long bans for abusing officials but 15 months does seem a little excessive.

Gold on the other hand has been found guilty of two serious offences and has got off scott free. Trying to influence the outcome of the game through undue pressure on officials should on its own be treated as a serious offence, and that’s before we consider the verbal abuse.

Why has one player been given such a long ban while a high profile coach has barely had a slap on the wrist?

We have seen World Rugby intervene in another high profile incident recently (Gypsygate), where the local governing body didn’t correctly apply WR guidelines. The Gold incident is another which could have benefited from their intervention.

As a reminder Dylan Hartley was given an 11 week ban for his tirade against Wayne Barnes that put him out of the British and Irish Lions tour.

This is the fourth article in the series which highlights the continuing footballisation of professional rugby:

#1 – Pat Lam

#2 – Niko Matawalu

#3 – Hogg, Habana and The Beast


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2 thoughts on “Footballisation of rugby #4: Abusing officials

  1. Tian is black and does not play for England. This is why he was banned for so long! Had he been white and/or an England international the ban would have been far shorter as in the cases of Watson and Marler. Rugby has a serious problem with institutional racism. The IRB never expelled apartheid SA and nations even sent racially selected teams to tour there! To put into perspective- the utterly crooked FIFA expelled SA in 1963! The legendary Bill McLaren said “… has been a disgrace that a world Rugby Union power has been eliminated from world competition for all those years.” of SA’s exclusion from the ’87 and ’91 world cups! He dedicated an entire chapter called “Barred from the International Feast” in his autobiography to SA’s apartheid era rugby. As we saw during the “gypsy gate” scandal, several rugby personalities expressed latently racist opinions. Will Carling even went so far as to speculate that you might be able to call a black man a “black c**t” and not mean it in a racist way, just simply as an insult. Sometimes I am utterly disgusted with rugby. The length of Tian’s ban is just another example of the deeply ingrained institutional racism within the upper reaches of our beloved game.


  2. Pingback: My mate was right – rugby ethics really are no better than football’s | theblitzdefence

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