Refs Stand Firm After Classic Betfred Challenge Cup Semi-Finals

Liam Moore has come in for horrific online abuse
17:04, 24 Jul 2023

Another week, another furious tirade of perceived injustice from one set of fans on social media. For the fourth week in a row we are talking referees, red cards and respect.

This week the angry fans are Wigan Warriors, the player is Joe Shorrocks and the referee is Liam Moore. Shorrocks was sent off for a high shot in the Warriors’ thrilling Betfred Challenge Cup semi-final defeat to Hull Kingston Rovers.

Last week it was Aaron Moore, Liam’s brother, pursued by irate Salford Red Devils fans. Before that it was Chris Kendall at Hull FC for sending off Josh Griffin. There seems to be an increasing unwillingness to blame anyone other than the referee when our team loses, and it is creating a negative energy around a breathtaking season.


We should be talking about one of the brilliant cup semi-final weekends, with heroic performances from underdogs Leigh Leopards and Hull KR.

But here we are again. So let’s clear up the latest controversy.

Do Wigan fans have a right to be angry? Not really.

The Shorrocks incident was a clear red card. Contact between shoulder and head is never going to be anything less and has not been for a while, whether traditionalists - of which this writer is one - who fell in love with League because of the big contacts, like it or not.

Shorrocks had been on the field last than a minute, he was clearly fired up, and got it fractionally wrong. The decision was made upon reviewing the video, Shorrocks was off, and Wigan ended up falling agonisingly short in golden-point extra-time.

Was Shorrocks unlucky? Yes, it looked like it, with opponent Mikey Lewis slipping low into the contact. But that doesn’t alter the contact, or the decision.

‘But it can’t have been a red card as Lewis didn’t even have to go off for a Head Injury Assessment’.

This was one of the most baffling arguments doing the rounds in the wake of the incident. Injury is irrelevant to the referee’s decision - although it can become a factor in deciding a subsequent suspension. This argument is like saying a high two-footed lunge in Sunday league football is only a red card if you break the opponent’s leg. Nonsense.

For those still unsure, the referee implements the laws of the game and will make decisions on penalties and cards accordingly. Any need for an HIA is assessed by the club physio and doctor. One does not influence the other. In short, just because you have been hit in the head does not mean you are concussed, although the game does continue to align those two eventualities more closely than ever.


‘But why was St Helens’ Sione Mata’utia not red carded for a similar, and arguably worse offence in the first semi-final 24 hours earlier?’

This is one area in which I do have empathy with the disgruntled Wiganers. The Mata’utia hit looked a red card too. A different game, a different referee, a different outcome. Subjectivity remains a key element of refereeing and on this occasion it produced an unfortunate comparison over the two matches. This was amplified by the RFL’s disciplinary panel ruling a two-match ban for Mata’utia, who was not sent off, and just one match for Shorrocks, who was. This was largely down to the previous record of Mata’utia however, and should not be used to argue that the Shorrocks red was wrong either. The Mata’utia incident would not have been further from Moore’s mind in the heat of battle the following day.

‘Moore ruined the game with that decision’. No he didn’t. Wigan may well have lost anyway, indeed the 12-man Warriors were inspired in a way that the 13 men had not been in the first half.

Either way, if you want a pound of flesh, look at the man sent off rather than the man with the card in his hand. If you have left your car for an hour without paying, it is not the parking attendant’s fault for giving you a ticket. Which brings us back to the point of abusing referees.

I can’t imagine Liam Moore wanted to give a decision like that and make himself the story in such a big game. In fact I know he didn’t. But he knew he had no choice after being informed what the video evidence showed. Had he let it go we may well have been dealing instead with angry Rovers fans. These referees are good, honest guys who just want to do their jobs as best they can without undue attention. That is clearly impossible in this line of work.

“Hang your head in shame. You absolute f***ing disgrace,” typed one of the angry online mob, while probably the most appalling message wished “every deadly disease” on the official after the game. As much as players need to take responsibility for their conduct, so do our supporters. You can be angry and upset without being poisonous and abusive.

In an increasingly toxic world, nobody deserves that. Let’s see how we get on at Wembley in a few weeks time if the referees decide to stay at home.


*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject to Change

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