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Fan concern over TMO audio legitimate – Andy Goode

By Andy Goode
The moment Stephan Lewies collided with Owen Farrell last Saturday (Screenshot via TNT Sports)

The statement from the professional game match officials team (PGMOT) and the RFU on last Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership TMO incident at Tottenham raises more questions than answers, but there is only one person who comes out of all this badly.

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We know it was “regrettable” and it shouldn’t have happened but the statement didn’t address the fact that TMO Stuart Terheege was heard saying, “The problem I have got now is it looks like Austin (Healey) has instigated it, so I don’t want to talk about it.”

I understand the authorities want to back their man but that is the crux of the issue: Terheege wouldn’t have needed to say that if he’d already made his decision, as the statement seems to suggest, so I don’t think anyone is buying that.

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Perhaps an even bigger issue that people aren’t making as much of is the fact that Terheege was heard saying “don’t show it” to the match director.

I appreciate fans are concerned that TMOs are being influenced by commentators and co-commentators, but there is no way that TMOs should be trying to prevent things from being shown.

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As a viewer, or someone involved in the business of rugby who might be seriously affected by these decisions, you want to see all the best angles and replays you can of every incident within the obvious time constraints there are.

We bemoan TV directors, those in France in particular, at times when they want to show arty shots or focus on the crowd and there is action that we feel we should be seeing or replays that aren’t being aired.

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Clearly, it is also plain for everyone to see that you can’t opt not to make a decision as a TMO because Healey or any other former player has spotted it first and drawn attention to it.

I can’t help but think this incident has triggered people more than it would have done if Sam Warburton or Brian O’Driscoll were at the heart of it. It has made more waves just because Healey has plenty of detractors on social media and seems to polarise opinion.

If people were able to put their personal opinion of him to one side, or if you speak to anyone in the industry, he is without doubt one of the sharpest minds around, is rapid with his analysis, and spots things that others simply don’t.

Maybe we do need to tighten up the process so that TMOs never hear any commentary as opposed to the explanation that they “do not actively listen or react to the broadcast commentary team”, but I guarantee more incidents will be missed.

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Healey and others have played the game at the highest level and are used to analysing it in great detail. It is only natural that they will spot things that TMOs will miss at times, so sometimes it can be helpful that they are being heard initially as long as they aren’t influenced.

That is obviously the key and the process is supposed to allow for commentary to be heard to a certain extent, up to the point that something looks like it is about to be referred to the TMO and then it is cut.

The “location at matches” concerning the TMO referred to in the statement is neither here nor there because they are obviously nowhere near the commentators and most of the television production is done off-site nowadays.

They could be in a remote location, as happens with VAR in football at Stockley Park, rather than in a truck in the car park. They could also have their own VT operator acting as their director and showing them different angles, but that all costs money and they would still obviously have to liaise with the match director.

I do understand fans’ concerns that TMOs hear commentary and I would be on board with them being in an even more independent setting with their own operator if the budget is there for it. Maybe that will happen with this having prompted a conversation.

It should be said that a TMO’s job is really tough because you are looking out for absolutely everything and rugby is a fast-paced sport where things are happening in different places at the same time and you have to make quick decisions.

Two sets of eyes are better than one and it will make the job harder without hearing anything other than the referee and with more minimal contact with the match director. But if a TMO is, for some bizarre reason, feeling he can’t make a decision because it has been brought to light by a co-commentator, then more clearly defined lines are obviously needed.

The statement concluded by saying, “All parties will continue to work hard to further refine and perfect systems to ensure player safety and high-quality rugby.” So maybe that will change in the near future.

Lifting the curtain is always interesting and it added a bit of extra drama and intrigue to a great weekend of Premiership rugby.

It wasn’t ideal but there is only one person who comes out of it all badly and that, unfortunately for him, is the TMO Terheege.

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Comments

1 Comment
B
BigMaul 119 days ago

storm in a teacup really. Penalty only so play on as the try was scored.

Now the real question is: why was Maitland allowed to pass the ball off the floor? That is illegal but refs never pick it up.

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