Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus
Rassie Erasmus, Springboks coach. Image via SARugby

Home » Rugby’s biggest problem: TMOs, not scrums!

Rugby’s biggest problem: TMOs, not scrums!

Rugby’s decision-makers should target TMOs and their broad powers and not the scrum to improve the game’s flow and fan experience.

02-04-24 10:10
Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus
Rassie Erasmus, Springboks coach. Image via SARugby

Rugby is a sport that is meant to be played and officiated in real-time, with the rules governing the scrum and the pace of the match being perfectly fine as they are.

However, World Rugby’s persistent efforts to hasten matches by undermining scrums have not quickened gameplay but instead frustrated fans, according to Mark Keohane, writing for TimesLIVE.


Keohane believes that rugby’s decision-makers continue to tamper with the fundamental aspects of the game while neglecting the problematic role of television match officials (TMOs).

He argues that the TMO’s current broad authority disrupts games, creates confusion, and slows down play.

“Rugby’s clever people continue to tamper with the laws and with the primary facets of the game that make it unique to other sporting codes,” Keohane writes.

“But the one area they refuse to target is the role of the television match official, whose limitless powers of intervention are destroying the game, slowing it down and invariably creating confusion and chaos.”


Keohane emphasises the importance of real-time officiating and highlights the flaws of scrutinising actions through super slow-motion replays, which can distort intent, timing, and perception.

He advocates for restricting the TMO’s powers to obvious fouls and blatant errors, allowing the game to flow more smoothly.


One of the rule changes that Keohane opposes is the goal-line dropout rule, which penalises attacking teams.

He argues that this rule does not enhance the speed of the game but instead aggravates viewers.

“Rugby’s decision-makers, so eager to speed up the game, continue to attack the scrum in a skewed belief that less scrums would mean a faster game,” he writes.


Keohane believes that the scrum is a unique and essential aspect of rugby that should be left alone.

He argues that the persistent efforts to undermine scrums have not resulted in a faster game but have only frustrated fans.

The rules governing the scrum are perfectly fine as they are, and tampering with them will only detract from the sport’s essence.


In conclusion, Keohane calls for a return to the roots of rugby, where the game is played and officiated in real-time.

He urges decision-makers to target the role of TMOs and restrict their powers to obvious fouls and blatant errors.

By doing so, the game will flow more smoothly, and fans will be able to enjoy the sport as it was meant to be played.

“Rugby is a game meant to be played in real time and officiated in real time. Let’s get back to that and leave the scrum alone,” Keohane concludes.