England legend’s comical ‘rabbit hole’ warning after Karl Dickson controversy

Jared Wright
Referee Karl Dickson, Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care, Lawrence Dallaglio and Brian Moore

Brian Moore has weighed in on the controversy defending Karl Dickson.

Former England hooker Brian Moore believes there is “nothing wrong” with Karl Dickson refereeing his former club Harlequins in the Premiership.

Moore’s comments come after Dickson’s hotly debated decision not to issue Danny Care, his former teammate, with a second yellow card during the clash between Harlequins and Northampton Saints at Twickenham.

Prior to the fixture, much was made of Dickson’s appointment for the match in the Northampton Chronicle and Echo, who claimed that the former scrum-half shouldn’t be officiating his former side due to a conflict of interest.

Moore defends Dickson

However, Moore argues that there is “no evidence that Dickson’s decision was made because of any bias, conscious or subconscious” when he decided not to issue a second yellow card.

“If he was biased to Quins, why did he give them three yellow cards, at least one of which was eminently debatable?” Moore wrote in his Telegraph column.

“Dickson’s brother, Lee, was a Northampton stalwart, so might he not harbour goodwill to the Saints accordingly? Commentator Lawrence Dallaglio thought the Care incident was a “stonewall yellow”, but then he played for Wasps and probably hates Quins. The fact that I made that comment on Dallaglio is probably because I played for Quins and am biased. This rabbit hole has no end, so let’s not start down it.”

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The 64-Test cap hooker adds that the bias imputation is “conjecture at best” and doesn’t take into account the complexity of the laws.

While many believed that Dickson penalised Care for diving into a ruck to stop Northampton’s attack, it was later clarified by RFU referee boss Paul Hull that the penalty was for pushing Saints wing James Ramm.

“Unfortunate precedent in club rugby”

Moore also took exception to the Chronicle‘s assertion that there are plenty of referees who would be better qualified to officiate in such a top-of-the-table clash.

“Dickson was one of a handful of Premiership referees with the right experience and to ban him from officiating for a pre-judged potential of bias would be an unfortunate precedent in club rugby,” he wrote.

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“The real evil of setting off down this path is betrayed by later comments in a Chronicle article. It goes on to highlight and criticise the fact that Wayne Barnes, one of the best referees of the modern era, was constantly allowed to referee Saints’ games after he sent off the Northampton captain, Dylan Hartley, for allegedly calling him ‘a f—— cheat’.

“You see where this kind of thinking goes? You get to a point where you are calling for referees to be banned if they have any ‘previous’ with you. In doing so, you are implicitly criticising the referee, not players’ misconduct, nor the often-abusive conduct of supporters on social media. Is this what rugby wants?”

He concluded: “It is true that international referees must be neutral, but they are treated differently because of the different environment. As the comments of national coaches, players, fans, and media clearly show, nationality invariably eradicates any vestige of objectivity. Rugby should not give in to these baser traits at club level.”

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