Of Bad Decisions--and Bad Blood
|Rod Symington is on the WSF Rules and Referees Committee and is a consultant on Rules and Refereeing to the USA. He has also been the Tournament Referee for, among others, the Women's Worlds, Pan Am Games, and Junior Men's and Women's Worlds. To contact Rod with questions or to enquire about clinics and his Squash Rules for Players, email him at email@example.com|
This month's column (which uses two episodes that actually occurred during the Championships) focuses on what to do about a referee who makes questionable calls.
In the first instance, there was a match being played where (I am told) the referee was making some questionable calls that seemed to be going against one of the players. That player mumbled to himself during the first game that he was going to have the referee replaced--which actually happened, after the first game. As a result of this episode I was asked the following questions: "What is the rule about having a referee replaced once a match is started? If both players agree, is that okay?"
The answer is simple: the players have no right to demand or request that the match referee be replaced--neither before nor during a match--nor may they agree between themselves that the match referee be replaced. Once appointed to the match, the referee is God.
However, if you find as a referee that you are out of your depth (i.e., the level of play is beyond your ability), then it makes no sense to be stubborn and referee a match that might end up a disaster. Swallow you pride and remove yourself from the action. After all, what we are all aiming for is a fair result to the match.
The other episode is a little more complex. This is the e-mail I received:
"I was playing in a match where my opponent started bleeding. I am unsure about when the injury occurred, and so was the referee. At the end of the third game however, my opponent, the referee and I all noticed the blood on his hand. We left the court and my opponent proceeded to take care of his wound.
Recalling the rules, I warned my opponent that he should be sure to strap and bind any covering securely. There was some frantic activity while everybody tried to find the best tape or covering. Finally the referee handed us some heavy-duty sticking plaster and my opponent wrapped his thumb, then we continued with our match.
Of course the tape job turned out to be less than what was required, and eventually the tape came off and the bleeding was evident again. At this point I questioned the referee about what the appropriate action should be...
After some discussion, the referee claimed that he had no knowledge of the Rule under which, if bleeding recurs, the injured player has to forfeit the game. So play continued, and I lost...
Under such circumstances what should the non-injured player do?"
Well, first things first: as noted above, you are stuck with the match referee no matter what decisions are made. If the referee lacks knowledge about a certain aspect of the Rules, that's just bad luck (for you). In essence, it's no different from a referee's giving you a let every time you deserve a stroke. Accept the decision and play on.
However, in the case of bleeding, it's a little more complex because here we have a safety issue. If a player is bleeding, there is a danger that the opponent might catch a transmittable disease (e.g., AIDS or hepatitis). That is why it is the match referee's responsibility to stop play immediately and order the player to leave the court--and to stop the bleeding and cover the wound. (The player is given as long as necessary for this to be done.)
Now if play resumes and the covering falls off and the bleeding starts again, the injured player has to forfeit that game--and use the 90-second break to cover the wound again. In the above episode the referee should clearly have awarded the game to the opponent.
Since there is a safety issue here, the player who is not injured has no obligation to play under such unsafe conditions. In effect, the match referee, by allowing play to continue where there is a danger of infection, has created an unsafe situation on court.
But if the match referee is God (as noted above) what recourse does the non-injured player have? The proper action in the above incident was for the non-injured player to refuse to play on and to request that the tournament referee be called. One must assume that the tournament referee would know the Rules and inform the match referee of the proper course of action.
In tournaments, the unpredictable frequently happens. That's why you always need someone around who is knowledgeable to be available to answer the "sticky" questions.