Friday, 25 May 2018

Has the Summer Bash Killed the Video Ref?

“… we can't rewind we've gone too far. Pictures came and broke your heart, put the blame on VCR.”

You might have seen the hoo-ha around changes to the Video Referee’s powers at this year’s Summer Bash. The RFL will ‘trial’ new decision-making parameters for the Video Referee  - with a reduction in the number of  things that the match referee can send upstairs.

The video referees’ remit has been reduced to making judgement on just three areas of the game:
1: the grounding of the ball,
2: is a player in-touch/touch in-goal
3: has the ball/a player gone over the dead ball line.

Pretty simple!

The RFL were forced to concede that the concept of the
Video Ref had got out of hand...
There will be none of Stupid League’s “I have a try/no-try” ‘live’ decision pantomime - nor will the Video Referee be able to check for obstruction, foul play, onside, offside or challenges in the air.

The RFL are packaging it up as a trial to see what happens if you ask referees to do their job and stop creating false tension for the TV cameras. They said: “We have worked hard in recent years and have seen the amount of time it takes for a decision come down significantly, but we are always willing to discuss new ideas and receive feedback from our partners. The Summer Bash offers the perfect opportunity to conduct a trial across six games and we will be interested to receive feedback from fans, players, coaches and the broadcaster following the event blah, blah, blah…”

Sky Sports Head of Rugby League, Neville Smith, said: “Sky Sports and Rugby League were pioneers in video technology ‘in-game’ and we will never stand still looking to improve what we offer fans.” Yeah, right, you Murdoch sock-puppet...

Run through the TLCRF80mins Bullshit detector, that translates as: “We invented this blight on our game and made it so integral to the viewing experience that we forgot what people actually came to watch. Having ruined the viewing experience at the top level for fans in the ground and at home, we will never stand still looking to improve ways to keep people paying £58 a month to watch Huddersfield v Salford.”


So, in short, the Video Ref. at Blackpool will have a quiet day because there will be:

No ‘live’ calls from on-field match official
No checks for obstruction
No checks on foul play
No checks on-side or offside on kicks
No checking challenges in the air and
No checks of knock-ons in general play/ or scrum, head and feeds, even if the ball is out of play.

The Video Ref. CAN still be called on for:

Checking 40/20s: but only where ball is kicked from (ie inside the 40) -  but not where it goes out!

PLUS, on:
Goal line drop out / 20m tap decisions the on-field ref must give a restart decision, whereupon the Video Ref can have no more than two looks. If the footage is inconclusive the game restarts with the referee’s original decision.

So, in short : basically the game will be trusting the officials to make the same decisions they make every week in the Championship, with the Video Ref effectively reduced to an in-goal judge.

Given that life happens in real-time and not at 32-frames-per-second in stop-frame, the Video Referee has distorted key moments in the game to one man’s five minute contemplation of one 32nd of a second frozen in time. The fact that finger-tip, ball and ground are all in fleeting contact for less time than it takes to blink makes a mockery of the game. Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end for this stain on the game


Thursday, 24 May 2018

The Summer Bash is Coming: Swinton Lions

And so, to Blackpool; scene of last year’s transformational triumph that kickstarted our season into life - and boy do we need a repeat performance.

Both Hornets and winless Swinton come into Sunday’s game desperately craving a victory to catalyse what has been a complex and challenging year for both sides.

But Barrow Raiders, it seems, are a significant factor in both teams’ seasons thus far.

Until last weekend, Swinton’s only point of the year came from a draw at Craven Park - and Swinton come into this week’s game on the back of yet another draw against Barrow Raiders: deprived of victory by a Jamie Dallimore penalty with the last kick of the game after a Barrow forward had milked a dubious penalty.

Swinton Kicker Chris Hankinson missed four from five attempts at goal. Ouch!

One of Hornets’ two wins this year was against an irksome 12-man Barrow at home and, ironically, Barrow could do both us and Swinton a favour by thrashing Sheffield in the first game of the Bank Holiday weekend.

Why? Because a Sheffield defeat and a Hornets win will haul Hornets out of the bottom two at the expense of the Eagles (Hornets currently with a +32 points difference over Sheffield).

It would require a Swinton win by 40 or more for them to scramble over Hornets in the league table - but in closing the points gap, it would turn up the heat at the bottom of the Championship

A Dewsbury defeat against Batley in the last game of the weekend will leave Hornets only a point behind the Rams (who somehow tossed away a 14-nil half-time lead to end up scraping a draw at Halifax last week). Lots of intriguing permutations.

Our one to watch on Sunday is Hornets fans’ favourite panto-villain George Tyson. He weighed in with two tries last weekend (that’s 6 tries in 10  appearances for Swinton) - and 10 minutes in the sin bin for hitting a Barrow player on the ground (seems Lions may change their jerseys, but not their spots).

Hornets come into the game on the back of a vastly improved, hard-working performance at Batley. But for a couple of indeterminate calls from the merry whistler, the outcome could have been very different. Certainly the return of Richard Lepori and Earl Hurst gave the backline a more robust feel - and having Dave Allen back gave the side a visible boost in workrate alongside Lee Mitchell who put in a major shift to clock his best performance yet in a Hornets shirt. And we’ll need more of that commitment to the cause on Sunday if Hornets are to maintain our 100% record at Bloomfield road.

So is The Bash Box Office?

It does promise to be an interesting day on Sunday - especially amidst great debate on both sides of the world on the crowd-pulling capabilities of multiple-header events. Down-under, controversial Murdoch sock-puppet Buzz Rothfield of the Daily Telegraph has accused the NRL of double-counting crowds at double headers in order to artificially inflate average attendance figures. The NRL has defended the way in which it calculates attendances - but both parties remain locked in a war of basic arithmetic over whether every fan watches every minute of each game played.

Over here, there was media concern over attendances at last Week’s Magic Weekend, the combined attendance of 64,000 down on the last four years. Most interesting is that since its return to Newcastle in 2015, day-two has produced a significantly smaller attendance. This year’s day two crowd of 25,400 the lowest day two figure since Edinburgh in 2010 - and that included a Humberside derby!

Blackpool’s Summer Bash shows an equally interesting attendance pattern across its three year life. Day one has grown year on year (2015 - 8,050, 2016 - 9521, 2017 - 11,567) - boosted by the presence of fallen Super League ‘giants’ Bradford, Leigh and Hull KR. But day two has DECLINED year on year (2015 - 7,021, 2016 - 6,391, 2017 - 4,807). So is playing on the Sunday the ‘graveyard slot’?

However you look at it, you have to think that day one this year has more ‘box office’. Halifax and Featherstone will generate some atmosphere and would ordinarily draw a decent crowd in its own right, similarly Leigh v Leigh ‘Old-Boys’ Toronto. The other fixture on Saturday is Barrow v Sheffield - the third time these teams will have met this season, Barrow having secured two convincing wins. (a third could do us and Swinton a big favour).

But you have to worry about this year’s Sunday attendance - featuring six teams with average home attendances of sub-1,000. Toulouse v London carries the risk of starting proceedings in a vacuum. Toulouse fans don’t travel (even to Blagnac, some might argue) and whilst London’s following will be noisy, it won’t be huge. It will also be the fourth time that Batley and Dewsbury get to contest a Heavy Woollen derby at Blackpool on day two. The two met on good Friday at  Mount Pleasant in front of 1,100 people.

Which leaves Hornets v Swinton. Certainly the scene is set for this to be the most hotly contested game of the weekend - probably the only one that has the potential for meaningful impact and serious jeopardy. Again, though, in the current RL climate, a fixture of such importance might  pull in 1,000 (guess we’ll see the week after).

It’d be fair to assume that the RFL are relying on people committing to the whole weekend, but even the most RL obsessive Barrow or Sheffield fans might take some persuading to stick around to see Batley v Dewsbury through to the death.

So what can we - as Hornets and as RL fans - do to make Sunday a day to remember. Firstly, get to Blackpool and get behind the team; let’s make some noise, generate a buzz and whip up a bit of atmosphere (you can bet that the Swinton fans will). Secondly, wear your colours, bring your scarf and wave your banner (if you have one) - this is our club’s moment in the national TV spotlight, so let’s give the cameras something to look at. Thirdly, try and get there in time for Game one - see cheering against Toulouse as a warm-up for the main event.

Finally - there’s still time to get your tickets from Hornets. Every one our club sells reduces the amount we basically have to pay the RFL to play at Blackpool (they charge us for a pile of tickets and we have to sell as many as possible to get our money back). Call Steve Kerr today on 01706 648004 to buy yours.

Tickets for the day are unreserved so fans can sit anywhere - there was talk at Batley last week of gathering as close as possible behind the dugouts, but wherever we gather, let’s get sat together and be that vital 18th man.

See you Sunday.