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RFU backs TMO after TV commentary ‘distracted’ him during Farrell decision
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RFU backs TMO after TV commentary ‘distracted’ him during Farrell decision

The Rugby Football Union has insisted that the television match official who appeared to ignore foul play on Owen Farrell after the pundit Austin Healey had seemingly spotted the incident first was not influenced by the TV commentary during Saracens’ victory against Harlequins.

While the RFU admitted to an “unfortunate occurrence” and expressed regret that “questions have been raised about player safety and decision-making”, the TMO Stuart Terheege will not face further action and it is understood he will be on duty this weekend.

The RFU has claimed that Terheege had already made his decision not to pursue further action over a late hit on Farrell by Stephan Lewies but conceded the TMO is “disappointed that he allowed himself to be distracted with interactions with the broadcast team and did not communicate his decision to the on-field match officials”.

The RFU began an investigation after Terheege appeared to be caught on a hot microphone refusing to further examine an incident between Lewies and Farrell in which the ­Harlequins forward hit the Saracens fly-half off the ball shortly before Juan Martín Gonzalez scored a try.

After the incident, Healey is heard on commentary for TNT Sports ­saying Lewies was “really late with both of his knees” and that “where he hits Farrell could be really interesting”. Terheege was then heard over the hot mic saying: “The problem I have got now of course is it looks like ­Healey has instigated it, yeah?” After a pause, presumably while he listened to a reply, Terheege added: “Yeah, mate, the problem I have got now is that it looks like Austin has instigated it, because we’re late, so I don’t want to talk about it, OK?”

After a replay of the incident was broadcast subsequently by TNT, ­Terheege could then be heard saying: “Oh come on, don’t show it because it …” before he was seemingly cut off.

Following the match, Healey wrote on social media: “Think the TMO has had better days, looks like ego got in the way of ruling on foul play,”, while the player welfare lobby group Progressive Rugby lashed out at “a clear dereliction of a match official’s duty to ensure player safety”.

In a lengthy statement, the RFU says Terheege requested that the match director clip up replays of the incident only to decline to look at them because he was “confident in his original decision” that further action was not warranted because Saracens went on to score a try.

The statement from the RFU’s professional game match officials team read: “TMOs do not actively listen or react to the broadcast commentary team. TMOs make their decisions independently, based on their own judgment, experience, and in line with agreed World Rugby protocols. However, due to their location at the matches, they sometimes overhear commentary. The nature of the audio configuration in some broadcast trucks and in some stadiums means the working environment varies from match to match.

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“The TMOs tend to be situated in the broadcasting director’s truck. They do not have a direct feed to the match commentary but can often hear it because of their proximity to the director.” The RFU review admitted that a conversation between Terheege and the director had “regrettably” been broadcast live but insisted that it was not “the reason for the foul play incident not being formally reviewed”.

The RFU’s statement added: “The incident was an unusual and unfortunate occurrence. The PGMOT, Premiership Rugby and TNT Sports are working closely together to make sure this does not happen again.”

Source: theguardian.com