Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
17 July 2014
Referees haven't always stayed neutral!
In a letter I found at home recently this short bit of refereeing whimsy was passed on down to me by the late, great writer Sir Terry ('T.P') McLean. Terry was commenting to me about referees in general and recalled that in the 1920s during the great Hawkes Bay Ranfurly Shield era, the top local whistle-man was a man called Bill O'Neill.
In those days 'home' referees controlled the games when visiting teams came to challenge for the famous trophy. In one challenge the visiting team was ever so slightly alarmed to hear Bill O'Neill when he had called a scrum, say out loud, 'OK boys, we'll scrum it here...and it's our ball in !'
Its a short piece which I publish here just because I can!
Arguably he was the slowest back on the field but nothing could stop the flying Mortlock; his try that greatly assisted the Aussies in their 22-10 sensational dispatch of the All Blacks.
Elected president of the French Rugby Federation in 1968, Albert Ferrasse of Agen built for himself the formidable reputation of being the most powerful administrator in French rugby.
Born in 1917, Ferrasse played at lock in the Agen team which won the national club championship of France in 1945. Later he made the reserves for the French XV. After his playing days were over, he took to refereeing with considerable success, refereeing the French club final of 1959.
Under his guidance France was admitted to the International Rugby Board in 1978. Ferrasse, very pro-British in his outlook, also fought sternly to allow South Africa to maintain its place in world rugby. Through France’s association with FIRA, he kept a weather eye on the emerging countries of European rugby.
Well known for taking a strong stance on rough play in rugby, ‘Tonton Albert’ (Uncle Albert) Ferrasse also introduced the rigid club transfer rules in France. Outsiders asked about the apparent ‘liberal’ attitude in France towards the amateur spirit of the game, but Ferrasse repeatedly claimed he investigated any complaints of the amateur spirit and could find few, if any, breaches. Talk is one thing, proof is another, he said, when questioned about reported professionalism in French club rugby. He was also once quoted as saying that ‘it is quite an achievement that rugby still resists the aggression of money’.
The authoritative reign of Ferrasse ended after 23 years in December 1991 when he resigned. After a prolonged backstage battle, Bernard Lapasset was elected in his place as the new president of the French Rugby Federation. Lapasset of course, went on to become Chairmain of the International Rugby Board.
Who said; 'Rugby League is a simple game played by simple people. Rugby Union is a complex game played by wankers?'