Sébastien Chabal, charismatic Racing-Métro forward, put on his suit and wrote a referees' exam - and passed!
A year ago Chabal's autobiography, Ma petite étoile (My little star), was published. In it the big man who in 2007 was the face of the World Cup, was sharply critical of Top 14 referees, saying, amongst other things: "The referees in the Top 14 are nothings. They make me mad." He said that they were unashamedly biased and not professional and extended his criticism to referees' assistants and to specific cases. His case was referred to a disciplinary committee of the Ligue Nationale de Rugby where he was initially suspended for 60 days. This suspension was reduced on condition that he got officially involved in refereeing.
As a 'punishment' Chabal was to take referees' courses under the aegis of the Ile-de-France referees' society, pass a referees' exam and referee eight matches, at least three of them at Under-17 level, before 31 December 2011.
Chabal attended the required eight courses on the laws and refereeing and in suit and tie he sat for the exam. On Tuesday he was informed by letter that he had passed it. He now has a licence as a trainee referee, which gives him the right to referee matches involving young players, and he now embarks on the third aspect of his 'punishment', refereeing eight matches. The first of these matches will be at Béthune rugby club, southeast of Calais.
France at one stage introduced a punishment for players who struck a referee - life suspension or five years as an active referee. There have been cases where the player stayed on as a referee when his five years were up.
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