SIX Nations rugby referees are confusing non-English speaking players, according to research.
Refs tend to use conversational English and few speak another language, making them “incomprehensible” to some players, according to Caleb Keown.
The PhD researcher at Queen’s University Belfast points to a recent case where an Australian referee mystified French players by telling them to “stop playing silly buggers”.
Keown argues that all English-speaking referees should be able to speak at least one other language – preferably French – before taking to the field.
Writing in an academic magazine, Keown said: “The use of non-standard English has the potential to cause confusion. The 2017 Six Nations has seen some debatable conversations on this front.
“It is difficult to see how, for example, Australian referee Angus Gardner’s appeal to the French players in their match against England to “stop playing silly buggers” will have meaningfully transcended the language barrier.
“Colloquial language is often incomprehensible to a foreign language speaker, so officials should have an educated awareness of the dangers of using it.”
He continues: “Some degree of bilingual officiating is clearly a step in the right direction for rugby – a sport whose top-level international teams speak a small pool of languages.
“Not least because the ubiquity of English could make rugby union seem like a closed shop to non-native speakers.”
At the 2015 Rugby World Cup, only three of the 12 referees were from countries where English is not the first language.
All three of these referees were from France.
At the 2011 World Cup, only one of the ten referees – Romain Poite of France – was a non-English native speaker.
Keown’s comments come after top official Wayne Barnes said English referees were taking French lessons, prior to the Six Nations.
Speaking last month, Barnes said: “We are not just training and reviewing, we are actually doing some French lessons as a group.
“I try to use my French as much as I can, but I have had French captains ask me to speak in English because they will understand me better.”