Any reason we can’t award TMOs the red card?
Under a weight of scorn, it would appear television match officials are operating in injury time
The plug, television match officials (TMOs) believe, may as well be pulled on them.
Often seen as intrusive and interventionist, these detached from on-field reality wasters of time are sliding inexorably towards extinction. They have become the game’s skunks, poking their noses, you can often argue with the benefit of hindsight, where it doesn’t belong.
There is a groundswell of support in favour of the referee being restored as the primary arbiter of what flows and what goes, which means the TMO will come into play only in the event of gross oversight.
Coaches generally support the view that the referee should take greater control and responsibility for what happens within his ambit. Even All Blacks coach Steve Hansen waded in, recently giving his endorsement to World Rugby’s soon-to-be-introduced protocols which significantly clip the wings of the man upstairs.
No wonder TMOs are questioning their own right to exist. “Under the new protocols they may as well do away with TMOs,” an official told Times Select this week.
“They will still need someone to look at footage but there is no point in having the TMO as we know it. The TMO will become a mere link between the referee and the broadcast director’s truck.”
He said the prevailing negative sentiment made TMOs reluctant to stick their neck out. “Increasingly TMOs are scared to get involved. People say TMOs just waste time. There are so many other things that contribute to matches being dragged out these days.”
To be fair, TMOs have a bad rep partly because the system in which they operate perennially, perhaps even ironically, comes under review. The protocols under which they operate have been changed so often it is hard to keep up. To exacerbate matters, depending which hemisphere you’re in, referees may pose the question, “is there any reason I cannot allow the try?”, to “try, or no try?”, to specific questions relating to a potential forward pass, double movement, acts of obstruction or foul play.
It’s easy for World Rugby to rein in TMOs. Unlike the top referees, they don’t hold full-time employment contracts but receive a match rate. Yet over the past few years the decisions they made were weightier than those made on the field.
The source said active referees don’t want to be TMOs but that whoever takes ultimate responsibility for matches needs to be competent.
“I think the system was fine. Individuals, however, made errors. The protocols are changed too often and maybe changes should only be done once in a four-year cycle.”
Either way, it would appear TMOs are operating in injury time.