Time RFL stopped acting like KGB over referees

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FORMER Doncaster coach John Stankevitch has been banned from any involvement in rugby league.

His crime? Well just about the kind of thing that Alex Ferguson and football league bosses do and say most weeks.

Stankevitch, who played for St Helens and is now at Rochdale, has refused to pay a £1,000 fine for comments to a referee.

He recently stood down as head coach at Hornets and has taken another role at the club but the Rugby Football League want their pound of flesh – and the cash for their tea biscuits fund.

Stankevitch has told he can have no involvement in matches; cannot attend rugby league grounds on matchdays or be involve in the business of any club. Now he is threatening to sue the RFL – the game doesn’t need this kind of spat.

I don’t know the exact words used when Stankevitch questioned the match official’s competence but I doubt if it matched the kind of ‘advice’ football referees will be offered by managers in the coming season.

Can you imagine the Premier League bosses daring to slap a ban like that on Sir Alex? But the RFL has always been touchy about referees. Players in rugby league at every level know that can’t win with the referee. There are correct decisions, wrong decisions and a referee’s decision.

I’m happy if the man in the middle enjoys his 80-minute run up and down the field and keeps something like order between 26 men who you can’t be sure ever bothered to read the rules. I like to believe the ref has read the rulebook more recently than most of us have the Highway Code and to hope that he’ll get most decisions correct.

What you don’t want to remember after a game is the performance of the referee.

This season referees have moved a little too much into centre field with their rulings having a major impact on the outcome of too many games.

Too often after-match comments by coaches have centred on the referee.

Mark Aston at Sheffield Eagles, Karl Harrison at Halifax and Featherstone’s Daryl Powell have all expressed their concerns about the standards of match officials.

Their comments might not have been as colourful as were those of John Stanevitch but it highlights a need for action.

The trouble is that the game’s ruling body is dead from the neck up when it comes to referees. Critics can go and whistle with anyone who speaks out likely to get it in the neck.

Aston, Harrison and Powell have all expressed valid concerns about the standard of refereeing below the Super League and the way games are too often ‘peppered’ by penalties.

All three equally seem resigned that no action will be taken with Powell saying it’s ‘pointless’ and Aston commenting he feels ‘I’m banging my head against a brick wall’.

That’s depressing for our game. These are voices that should be heard. The RFL needs to be listening, talking and stop acting like the KGB.