23rd Jan 2024

Abuse of Match Officials


Respect towards one another is one of the most important core values in our game and we are all responsible for upholding it. Importantly, if we do not respect our match officials they simply won’t be there when we want them to referee a game. No referee means no game.


This season, we have had one case of match official abuse by players and one case of match official abuse by non-players, that have resulted in Code of Conduct and Disciplinary proceedings. Moreover, multiple other examples of unacceptable conduct towards referees that have been dealt with by clubs.


Sanctions handed out have ranged from 4 to 6 week bans from involvement in rugby.


Clubs are reminded that they have a direct role in controlling the behaviour of their coaches, spectators and players on and off the field.


There is a real need for a deterrent to get rid of this scourge on our game.  Clubs and players should be aware that the Discipline Committee continues to adopt a policy that any player, coach, administrator or supporter who appears before a panel on a charge under World Rugby Law 9.28 (match official abuse or disrespect) will automatically result in at least a mid-range entry sanction.


Coaches, Parents and Reserve Players Entering the Field of Play


In recent seasons, we have seen an increase of coaches, parents and reserve players entering the field of play without the Referee’s permission. Whilst more noticeable in youth rugby, there have also been instances we have dealt with in the adult game.


Please make your players, coaches, parents, and spectators aware that anyone entering the field of play without the Referee’s permission is not acceptable, and maybe summoned in front of a HKCR Code of Conduct or Disciplinary Panel and subject to sanctions in the way of bans.


Physical Abuse Amongst Players


All of us involved with our great game have a responsibility to make sure that players are safe. This season we have had a case where a player was banned for 17 weeks for kicking an opponent in the head.


Club and players need to be reminded that World Rugby Regulations state that any identified act of foul play which results in contact with an opponent’s head and/or neck and is red carded or cited, will always result in at least a mid-range sanction.


In practice, this means that even if no injury is sustained:


  • punching or striking an opponent with a hand or arm will mean a starting point of at least 6 weeks’ suspension from playing; 
  • kicking an opponent will result in a sanction (or starting point?) of at least 8 weeks’ suspension from playing; and 
  • striking an opponent with the head will result in a sanction (or starting point?) of at least 10 weeks’ suspension.

Bad Language


We have received a number of complaints from spectators, several having been accompanied by young children, concerning the high volume of bad language coming from the players. We have also had complaints relating to abusive language from spectators being directed to the referee (treated as ‘match official abuse cases’).


Bad language, abusive or not, does not help with the rugby image we want to display as part of the development of our game.


This issue has been raised with the club coaching officers and they have been asked to take appropriate steps to ensure that spectators and officials are not subject to this sort of behaviour.


A reminder to all clubs that we all have a responsibility to develop and promote rugby as a fun, safe and inclusive ‘Game for All’.


Yours in Rugby


Hong Kong China Rugby