Gregor Paul on rugby
Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Sanzaar is running the world's worst judicial system

Sharks coach Gary Gold. Photo / Getty
Sharks coach Gary Gold. Photo / Getty

There has to be a reasonable chance that Sanzaar, against unbelievably stiff competition, runs the world's worst judicial system in regard to producing consistent and fair outcomes.

It would be blessed relief if the system and all those responsible for running it could be cited and then handed an enormous suspension. One that lasts for centuries.

The latest decision - to fine Sharks coach Gary Gold for abusing a television match official - is at least one that can be applauded in principle. But there are two significant problems with this case.

The first is that the punishment doesn't appear to be anywhere near harsh enough to fit the crime. Gold has been fined A$15,000 ($16,635), $2500 of which is suspended, for twice seeking out TMO Johann Greeff during the match against the Crusaders to verbally abuse him.

By any reasonable assessment, abusing a TMO during the game is about the worst thing a coach can do. Such behaviour is a clear and obvious attempt to intimidate an official - surely a line that can never be crossed.

Certainly not one that can be approached twice in the space of six minutes as Gold did. And yet the punishment is A$12,500 - a figure which, measured against pay scales, is hardly going to be any deterrent to coaches. For some, the risk of verbally abusing an official during the game will financially stack up as a good investment.

Sanzaar, by issuing such a lenient punishment, has spectacularly failed to demonstrate the seriousness of Gold's actions. Officials across the tournament should be incensed that they have been so poorly protected and will rightly be wondering whether they are viewed as the sacred beasts administrators always claim them to be.

The second problem with the Gold ruling is that it demonstrates the phenomenal lack of consistency within the system.

A year ago, almost to the day, it emerged that Waratahs and Wallabies-elect coach Michael Cheika entered the referee's room at halftime of a match against the Blues. He talked to the official in question, Jaco Peyper, for several minutes.

The penalty count at the end of the first half was eight-one in favour of the Blues when the two sides clashed on March 28. The second-half penalty count was nine-one in favour of the Waratahs.

Again, by any reasonable assessment, Cheika influenced the outcome of the contest by having dialogue with Peyper. Yet this was dismissed by Sanzaar who said Cheika did not breach any rules or any code of conduct.

In direct contradiction, in explaining why Gold had been fined, Sanzaar issued a statement that said: "It was found that by his actions Mr Gold has clearly breached Super Rugby Competition 3.8 (7) 'That no person may engage, or attempt to engage with a TMO during a match in relation to the TMOs officiating the match'."

Perhaps the reason Sanzaar didn't feel Cheika had broken any rules was that he was carrying a suspended sentence that meant if he was found guilty of any breach, he'd incur a six-month ban.

Such a ban would have ruled him out of coaching the Wallabies at the World Cup and that was clearly a road Sanzaar was not willing to go down.
If Sanzaar doesn't run the worst judicial system in the world, then the game really is in trouble.

- NZ Herald

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