March 2021 number 1
Dear sisters and brothers,
Refereeing, in both rugby and football made the headlines this weekend. The interesting thing to me has always been the response both on and off the pitch to referees, and after the last Test Match, umpires as well.
In rugby and cricket the referee/umpire is ‘god’. What they say goes. You do not argue, the captain can I enquire, but you do not argue.
In my sporting life there have been incidents. One of the first was not a game I played in. My home rugby team, the mighty Bridgwater & Albion, got to the final of a county knock-out competition. They were playing a side who were ‘below them’ as might be said. The match was tight, Bridgwater had not played well and were just in the lead. In the last minutes of the game the other side dropped at goal. The kick missed, but the referee signalled it had gone over, the whistle went, the game was over, they won. The captain did approach the ref but he was sure and that was that. No histrionics, no ranting. The opposition seemed a little embarrassed and one even apologised, but a meal and a drink together after the game and all was past.
My own two experiences, one in rugby and one in cricket, involved the same person who was ref/umpire.
In cricket my school was playing a nearby school. My dad turned up to watch as he often did. I was an opener batting at NO.2. First over went OK, we got a run, I batted away and got a single. The next over I got another single and my friend, Rob, was on strike. The bowler ran in, bowled, it hit Rob’s pad. It was clearly not out as the ball was going down the leg side by a mile. There came the cry from the bowler ‘OWZAT’
And the umpire’s response was ‘Yes, that’s out, son’. We didn’t complain, we had had previous experience. I looked at my dad in the pavilion, he just smiled.
We experienced his officiating about three times a year in rugby and twice a year in cricket.
The umpire/referee had a son in the team, a couple of nephews, two other relatives’ children, the boyfriend of his daughter and his neighbour’s son.
At a rugby match about two years later, he was ref. My dad again came to watch me play. The ref lived up to his usual ways. At one stage, after being punched off the ball for the third time, there was a knock-on missed. One of our players shouted, ‘that was a knock-on’, I responded ‘don’t bother he only sees one sides offences.’ Immediately my dad shouted ‘Sonner, over here.’ The game was still going on, but my dad called me to the touchline. He told me that no matter what the ref saw or did not see, he was the ref, and the role was to be respected. He said I had to go up to the ref and apologise or he would take me off the pitch himself and drive me home. I was 16, but I knew I was wrong. I went up to him, apologised, he accepted my apology but warned me about future outcries. We did win in the end. Never before and never again in the next 12 years of rugby did I ever call out a ref.
The whole thing comes down to this. There are rules, there are laws, there are standards in all walks of life. There are ways of living expected of us as Christians and we are to maintain them. If others do not, other people, governments, officials, clergy, laity and so on, then that is no reason for us not to. We know what is expected of us, we are to rise to those heights, not sink to others level.
In the Bible if we look at Philippians 4, beginning at verse 8 we find: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
That is why we are said to be ‘in the world, but not of it.’ We are ‘in the world’ to show the love and grace of God in Jesus. We are not ‘of the world’ in that we do not show the behaviours that the world shows and rewards.
Rev. Mark Barrett
Superintendent Presbyteral Minister of the North Wiltshire Methodist Circuit.
Presbyteral Minister for Bath Road, St. Andrew’s and Rodbourne Methodist churches.