YOU will know, from my description of myself above, that I love rugby.
I don’t just love Irish rugby – it’s a struggle to do so right now anyway. I love rugby – period.
And although my own country has been, so far, an enormous disappointment at the World Cup in France, there have been some wonderful games.
And despite a few lopsided scores, it seems, to me at least, that the gap between the strong and weak countries is narrowing, however slightly.
But one thing is spoiling the tournament for me.
It is the same thing that spoiled last year’s Six Nations tournament.
It is the same thing that, week after week, spoils the Premiership.
It spoils international games at whatever sport wherever they take place.
It spoils our domestic games of hurling and football.
It is referees.
I first encountered referees at a very young age, playing rugby in Willow Park School in Dublin.
I came to the conclusion then, that they were, without exception, eejits. I formed the opinion that they were, to a man, incompetent. I reckoned way back then, that they were ego maniacs who believed the games centred around them, inadequate folk who got their jollies ordering people around on a football pitch, nasty, authoritarian figures who craved attention.
Nothing that has happened in the intervening 47 years has changed my opinion.
In this Rugby World Cup, the refereeing has ranged from incompetent to farcical to downright suspicious.
The worst thing the rugby authorities ever did, was give these attention-seeking dimwits microphones, at least, microphones that permit television viewers and radio listeners to pick up what the referees are saying.
They now, God help us, feel obliged to talk every micro second of every damned game.
“Hands away blue, stay on your feet red, bind green.”
It is incessant.
And the rugby authorities then invited them to talk even more with their nonsensical "crouch, touch, pause, engage” nonsense. In fairness, most front rows – I was a prop – ignore the poor eejits completely. Listen, and you will hear referees trying to get as far as ‘pause’ before the front rows have actually engaged.
(I presume, on this score, that the rugby authorities, chuffed with themselves will now bring this idiotic idea one, or even two further. Why not “crouch, say hello, have a wee chat, kissy kissy, touch, hug, have a little rest, engage.)
I have seen more forward passes in this World Cup than I had in my life heretofore.
I have seen more balls but crookedly into scrums, more blatant offside, more crossing, more obstruction, more crooked throw-ins and more refereeing incompetence than I thought it possible to witness in a lifetime, never mind a few weeks.
The other night (I had better not say which match, I’d reckon the little Hitlers are litigious too) I saw a referee standing three feet from a player who knocked on and then proceeded to pass the ball for a try. Do these boneheads not realise we can see and hear them (unfortunately)?
And it’s actually worse in soccer.
A blind man would see some of the dives. Indeed, commentators do the sport no favours, generally either ignoring dives or saying something like ‘there was minimal contact’ when, clearly, there was none.
In Gaelic football, players are, variously, penalised for taking five steps with the ball or not penalised at all for taking ten.
And did you know, for example that it is illegal, in Gaelic football, to trip, punch, hold, drag, pull or rugby tackle another player.
God help us, there’s nothing but dragging and pulling and holding going on for the entire 70 minutes!
There is debate, in most sports, about the use of electronics.
I cannot see a single argument against employing technology.
In the first instance, computers don’t have egos.
In the second, they don’t have faces, which they wish to be seen on television.
In third, while they are fallible, they are, generally speaking, unbiased.
Get rid of referees, I say.
Chuck ‘em out.
Let them all go off to become traffic wardens or school attendance officers or something else with a uniform and which involves ordering people about.
But sport can do without them.
There has to be a better way.