Two yellows shouldn’t add up to game-ending red

2013-09-28 00:00

THE two yellow card law was adopted by the IRB from Association Football where two such cards in one game lead to an automatic red card.

There is, however, an important difference between the consequences of yellow cards given under the laws for these two very different games. In soccer, the perpetrator of a first yellow card offence stays on the field. In other words, the first yellow card serves as a warning to the player not to offend again. There is no penalty for the player’s first offence other than a free kick.

In rugby, the first yellow card has dire consequences for the player’s team. Firstly, the offender is sent from the field for 10 minutes. In practice, a side usually commit themselves to defending while reduced to 14 players and often concede a try despite their best efforts. Secondly, a penalty is always awarded following a yellow card offence. If such a penalty is within range of the posts, the result is almost invariably three points to the opposition.

Thus, in rugby, a yellow card often results in a period of play in which one team score 10 points and the other team spend 10 minutes defending. The offender’s team in rugby are hugely disadvantaged, whereas in soccer they are not. Surely, in rugby, the argument is open to treat a second yellow card quite differently from soccer?

Rugby already has a separate category of red card offences governing foul and dangerous play, which, if committed, will see the offending player sent off the field for the rest of the match. I think everyone understands the necessity for such sanction in a violent and brutal sport. Certain behaviour cannot be tolerated.

Yellow card offences are a mixture of technical and dangerous play offences of a less deliberate nature. What would be the harm of eliminating the two yellow card law? For every yellow card a player commits, his side concedes a penalty and he spends 10 minutes in the bin. Is this not sufficient sanction?

No one wants to see a player sent off permanently for committing two relatively mild offences. As things stand, a scrumhalf can be given a red card for not putting a ball in straight to three scrums. This is doubly ludicrous when one considers that scrumhalves have been doing this for two decades without any punishment at all. What is the essential difference between throwing a crooked ball into lineouts (punishable by awarding a scrum or another line-out to the opposition) and not putting it straight into scrums? Red cards should be reserved for heinous offences.

Perpetual yellow card offenders would run foul of their coaches long before they attracted the attention of the authorities. No team could afford to field a player who consistently spent a quarter of the match off the field.

The beauty of this simple adjustment to the laws of the game would mean that the Bismarck situation would never rise again, and potentially great rugby matches would not be spoiled by a silly law. It would also fit into the principle that a match should be between 15 players on each team except for the occasional red card.

Some might argue that in the case of repeated cynical offences close to the try line it is necessary to retain the two yellow card law. In practice, the most cynical of all teams, the All Blacks, ensure that different players commit such offences in order to avoid the danger of a permanent dismissal.

Enough of that. From time to time sport throws up a feel good story. Last weekend, Henrik Stenson won the biggest prize in golf when he walked off with $11,4 million (R115 million) following his dual victories in the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup. Just a few years ago, he was ranked as low as 289th in the world when his game entered a downward spiral that saw him disappear from the PGA and other tours.

The cause for celebrations now is not so much his recovery from despair at losing his swing, but his ability to bounce back after being swindled out of $8,5 million by Allan Stanford, the notorious Ponzi scheme villain and former best buddy of many unfortunate Caribbean cricketers who also became his victims.

Stanford was the unsavoury character who chartered a helicopter and landed unannounced at Lord’s with a trunk containing $20 million in fake notes. He was trying to ingratiate himself with the English Cricket Board in order to lend credibility to his plans to launch a Carribean T20 competition with other people’s money. He did not fool the MCC, who own the hallowed turf on which Stanford’s helicopter landed, but ECB chairperson Giles Clark and his cronies fell hook, line and sinker for the American villain.

Stanford conned the ECB into allowing an England team to play a West Indies side for a $20 million winner-take-all match in Antigua. It was during this match that Stanford was photographed fondling the wives of some of the England players, much to the fury of their husbands.

It all ended in tears when the Windies team won and all but a couple of the players entrusted their booty to the wretched pirate, never to see it again.

Stanford had long realised that successful sportsmen are among the most gullible of investors. He made it his business to befriend them and the soon-to-be poor Henrik Stenson became one of his many victims. Stanford is a current guest for life of the U.S. government.

Stenson was distraught at losing so much money and many attribute his loss of form to despair at his foolishness.

It says much for his ultimate resilience that he was able to recover from such a setback, reclaim his place at golf’s top table with such stunning effect and endure the pressures inherent in claiming the game’s richest prize.

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