• Guinness Premiership

Saracens boss Brendan Venter awaits RFU hearing

Scrum staff
January 18, 2010
Brendan Venter: "No idea what is going on out there" © Getty Images

Saracens director of rugby Brendan Venter is set to face a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel on Tuesday following his outburst against referee David Rose earlier this month.

The former South Africa centre was charged with "conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game" after launching a verbal attack on the officials following his side's 22-15 Guinness Premiership defeat against Leicester at Vicarage Road on January 2. Venter was incensed by the handling of the game and questioned referees' professionalism. He also blamed the "lottery" of their decisions at the breakdown for the negative rugby that has blighted the Premiership this season.

However, the RFU charge centres on one particular comment made in a radio interview where Venter is alleged to have questioned the integrity of Rose. "I think the referee was influenced at half-time, and that's all I can think," he told the BBC. "All I know is something happened at half-time, the game changed."

Venter launched his initial tirade in the post-match press conference, declaring, "The penalty count in the first half was 9-3 to Sarries. The penalty count in the second half was 10-4 to Leicester. We asked the referee to keep everything the same in the second half. Something happened to this poor referee and there was basically a 12-penalty swing.

"There was one referee in the first half, he walked through a maze or something, and he came out another referee. This is a professional game and this is a problem. I don't think referees are dishonest, we just do not have the ability to stay objective."

Venter also revealed that RFU referees' assessor Tony Spreadbury had admitted in a confidential meeting that 25 refereeing mistakes had been made during his side's defeat against London Irish in December.

"This is a professional game and this is a problem. I don't think referees are dishonest, we just do not have the ability to stay objective," he said. "There is a problem out there and that is the game is determined by referees and not by rugby teams.

"I just think there is no idea what is going on out there. We are professional, we look at rugby games. For us, it is important. We sat with the referees this week and went through the entire London Irish game and watched every single breakdown. London Irish had 25 offences (missed) last week, we had one. The words were: 'Sorry, we got it unbelievably wrong.'

"I made a request this week for the referee to look at the video of our last game and Leicester's last game but I was told they don't normally do that. If I can watch the opposition's last five matches, how come the referee doesn't look at the last game and come prepared? Everybody says: 'Why don't you play a lot of rugby? I go: 'Maybe it's just not worth it because it is a lottery'. Everybody wants to know why the game is dying. Maybe that is why the game is dying."

At the time of the charge, Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths promised that the Premiership side would fight the charge. "The club will mount a vigorous defence," he said. "Brendan offered an impassioned, rational and widely supported analysis of problems currently facing the game. He did not question the integrity of the referee at any stage and, in fact, on the contrary, stressed on several occasions he does not believe any of the officials are dishonest."

Venter's decision to go public with his grievances has been criticised by some although others have praised him for highlighting a troublesome area of the game and the difficulties referees face officiating such a chaotic area of the modern game.

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