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Materiality - Introduction. In any match with a number of physical and technical contests, there will be offences that the referee will regard as having a non-material effect.

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materiality introduction

Materiality - Introduction

In any match with a number of physical and technical contests, there will be offences that the referee will regard as having a non-material effect.

The difficulty with non-materiality is that the referee has to take into consideration if a particular offence is non-material in the context of:

The incident itself

The match as a whole (creating a permissive environment)

The game of rugby across all matches

Bearing this in mind, it is very important that when a referee considers an offence to be non-material, that the referee observe the following:

The referee acknowledges an offence has occurred

The offending player is made aware by the referee of the infringement and the potential consequences of further infringements.

de minimis
“De Minimis”
  • In a presentation on “Materiality”, Corris Thomas (IRB) introduces “De minimis”
  • Object of the game is not
  • “to score most points and never break the law
  • But
  • To win through fair play according to the laws.
  • It’s the job of the referee to see that this happens In order to keep the game moving, the referee has to decide what is and what is not important.
  • “de minimis non curat lex” =
  • “ the law does not concern itself with trivialities”
  • “a principle of law that, even if a technical violation of the law appears to exist according to the letter of the law, if the effect is too small to be of consequence, the violation of the law will not be considered as a sufficient cause for action ………”.
de minimis continued
De Minimis Continued
  • This does notmean the omitting of any laws. All laws are enforced – but
  • Only when the circumstancesfor which those laws were created actually happen.
  • 2 requirements for a penalty award are:
  • a law has been broken
  • there has been an effect, ie
  • - one side has received an unfair advantage
  • - one side has been denied a fair advantage
  • Materiality has nothing to do with advantage
  • Advantage is a totally separate issue
  • Advantage says-” a law has been broken, there has been an effect, there should be a sanction
  • but there may be more benefit to the non offending team if play carries on”
  • De minimis says “ a law has been broken but - there has been no effect and so the law has no application in the circumstances”



Play on

Has a Law been broken?



Make a mental note of the player(s) involved and make them aware at next available time.

Do not whistle

Sometimes you may have to wait a little to answer the question ie to see how play evolves. An example would be that players have to take other options because of the infringement.

Has there been an effect?

One side has received an unfair advantage, OR

One side has been denied a fair advantage

Can an advantage be gained?

Apply advantage processes as normal

A Law has been broken, there HAS been an effect, there should be a sanction, but there may be more benefit to the non-offending team if play continues

materiality workshop
Materiality Workshop
          • Learning Outcome
  • At the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to
      • Understand the principles of “materiality”
      • Delineate between “advantage” and “NME” (no material effect)
      • Appreciate the game management implications and actions required
  • Process
  • View each clip, discuss and note decisions
  • Max 3 minutes will be allowed per clip
  • View as the referee, not the RC, simulating “real-time”
  • Next clip
  • Time allowed after last clip to review findings
  • Report
  • Correct decision, or
  • Correct but query on advantage (no detailed explanation required), or
  • NME, should have played on (reasons therefore)