How long before a coach sues?

It would be a dark day for rugby says Tank Lanning in his column, but he still believes we will see the day when a coach or player takes a match official to court to sue for loss of earnings.

I am not suggesting that it should ever happen, and it would be a dark day for rugby if it ever did, but what do you think would happen if a coach or player took a match official to court to sue him for loss of earnings as a result of his error?

With players now personally liable for any injuries caused as a result of foul play, it would not be the first time that the sport would find itself in the small (or more likely, very large) claims court!

On Saturday it was England who got the lucky break against Australia via a mistake from the match officials when fullback Mike Brown clearly had his feet on the touchline upon fielding a kick from the Australians. So instead of an Australian feed to a lineout 5 or 10 metres from the England line, wing Marlon Yarde was given a chance to Test the Wallabies down the left wing. He nearly made them pay himself, but it was Chris Robshaw who charged down a dreadful attempt at a clearance kick from Will Genia on his own tryline to score …

So the Aussies went from being 13-6 up, and on the attack, to 13 all. All because both the referee and his assistant neglected to ask the TMO to take a look.

It would be pretty damn difficult for a court to order that the event caused the Australians to lose the game, but the prosecution would have a field day bringing in “expert” witnesses to say that it did. Throw in the “Yes, there was obstruction, but not enough to prevent a try from being scored” TMO call on the Owen Farrell try, and this little drama would rival both the OJ Simpson and Oscar Pistorius cases!

The debacle that saw Bismarck du Plessis’ red card expunged given that referee Romain Poite was proven to have wrongfully issued a yellow card for his tackle on Dan Carter just adds fuel to this fire, and I do not think we can be too far from a lawsuit.

Coaches are judged on results, and results only. And as they say in the classics – There is no remarks column on that table! Were Ewen Mckenzie or Heyneke Meyer to have been fired because of either of the results in these two games affected by poor officiating, might they have been tempted to seek solace in the courts?

If a brickie was given modelling clay instead of cement by his foreman, and then fired because a wall he built fell down, he would quite obviously have a case against said foreman. As a CA charged with presenting the year’s budget, you would quite obviously need Excel, but if only given World by your Financial Director, could you still be expected to do your job?

And so coaches and players are reliant on the match officials getting their calls right. Sure the officials have a tough job, and being human, they will make mistakes. But when they neglect to use the tools at their disposal, I think coaches have every right to get a little uppity!

Being a protected species in the eye of the IRB, I am sure coaches have it in their contracts that they cannot in fact sue match officials, and as said up front, it would be a really sad day were it to happen, but I cannot help thinking that it is not far off.