Boycott by referees forces cancellation of Hong Kong lower division games

More than 350 players will miss out on matches when season resumes

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 January, 2014, 12:59am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 January, 2014, 9:32am


An unprecedented boycott by referees will rob more than 350 players in the lower divisions of a game when the season resumes on Saturday after the festive break.

The Hong Kong Society of Rugby Football Union Referees is up in arms over the abrupt dismissal of its longtime performance manager of referees Bernie Fienberg by the HKRFU and in protest have decided not to officiate all matches across the board.

The Paul Y Premiership will, however, go ahead with HKRFU officials stepping into officiate, which happened last Tuesday when Leighton Asia HKCC met WhichWay Valley in a match rearranged from the first round. But all other games in Division Two, Three, Four and Five have been cancelled.

Proposed changes and constant, unprofessional and very poor behaviour from certain sectors within the rugby community, have caused much consternation amongst our membership
Hong Kong Society of RFU Referees

“This weekend rugby will not be a ‘Game for All’, with over 350 players missing their weekend games,” said a spokesman for the referees’ society. “We believe the HKRFU needs to provide a better explanation, than the one given [for Fienberg’s dismissal].”

On December 24, Christmas Eve, and after 15 years' of service, Fienberg was given one week  to clear his desk and leave.

HKRFU officials were unavailable for comment last night.

In a letter sent to all club chairmen on Friday, the referees’ society said it was regretful this course of action had been taken.

The statement read: “This season has seen a number of very distasteful incidents against the referees, both verbal and physical. In addition, there have been a number of significant changes in the refereeing structure.

“While we are very supportive of the ‘spirit’ of the changes and the initial consultation and decisions that were undertaken with the society last season, we were quite concerned at the further changes that were made over the ‘off season’ without consultation.

“At no point this season was the society consulted or asked for our opinion, nor have we had any sight of these proposed changes. These changes culminated in the abrupt departure of Bernard Fienberg on January 5.

"Whilst the personnel employment relationship is entirely a matter for the union, the proposed changes and constant, unprofessional and very poor behaviour from certain sectors within the rugby community, have caused much consternation amongst our membership, especially as we have been kept in the dark on the changes.

“The timing and manner of Bernie’s departure was the breaking point for many. We became aware that a number of referees decided they would not make themselves available to referee this weekend, as a protest against the treatment of Bernie and issues as highlighted above.

“Our greatest concern is that we have heard that some members are contemplating giving up refereeing entirely. As soon as we became aware of this, we called an extraordinary general meeting [to be held on Monday].

"As a society, we have tried to cover as many games as possible this weekend and for the past 50 years, we have successfully managed to cover all games despite the ever-growing demands made on the referees as the game has expanded.

“However, it must be pointed out that our members are all volunteers and we cannot force anybody to referee. It is also stressed that at no point did the society encourage any of its members not to referee this weekend.

"It is also pointed out that members have taken no action at any game at youth or tertiary levels, with the New year’s Day tournament last week and the tertiary tournament held last weekend having the full support of the society refs.

“We have discussed the situation and issues with the union CEO Vernon Reid, chairman Trevor Gregory and Dai Rees. We believe that there are a number of matters to be clarified and discussed in detail but with proper and full consultation, we can work with the union to achieve what everyone in rugby wants - a better game at all levels, for all involved.