As they say on the internet, that escalated quickly. Wellington rugby put together a video sting highlighting abuse of referees, and how something needed to be done about it.
It involved Hurricanes players dressed up as fat bearded refs and, as it turns out, actors scattered throughout the crowd giving them lip.
Perhaps the last part was a bit clumsy, but it’s important to note the actors were not called out by the other parents; just another Saturday morning on the sidelines.
But, amongst all the outrage at the use of actors (this is Wellington, why the surprise?) the wider message has been lost. For the record, here are extracts from the original Press Release showing what the overall programme is about.
The Positive Sidelines Initiative is a joint venture between Wellington Rugby and Burger King which will see a series of campaigns launched under the slogan Support Our Teams But Keep It Clean.
This weekend all Wellington junior club teams will be issued with a supporter’s scorecard whereby an appointed sideline ambassador will rank the conduct of the opposing team’s spectators out of 10.
Categories include attitude toward the referee, loud and positive cheering and overall atmosphere with prizes at the end of the season for teams with the highest overall score.
That’s a reminder that it’s about more than abuse of refs. Young children are often abused by parents, and not only by those supporting the other side.
Vito: “Rugby to me is about friends, family, competitiveness, but positivity first and foremost and about having good healthy competition with your mates,” Vito said. “I’ve witnessed negative sideline behaviour in the past and it’s ugly. The kids are out there just trying to have fun and trying their best. It’s not the be all and end all.”
Wellington Rugby Union head of community rugby Will Caccia-Birch said the aim was not only to improve sideline behaviour, but also to promote positive role models.
“We are all responsible for setting a good example and helping to provide a positive environment for children to enjoy the game they love.
“Too often parents, family members and friends are spoiling the enjoyment of the very kids they have come along to support. We want everybody involved whether its players, parents, supporters or referees to leave our rugby fields with a positive experience 100 per cent of the time.”
So, regardless about what you might think of the involvement of unchallenged actors in the initiative, you have to applaud this. Let’s hope other organisations, in other sports and in other centres get the hint.