5 Jul 2016

'Staged' Vito video targets sideline abuse

1:31 pm on 5 July 2016

Wellington Rugby has recruited Victor Vito for a campaign to tackle what it says is ongoing abusive sideline behaviour at junior rugby matches.

Victor Vito has his disguise applied before the match.

Victor Vito has his disguise applied before the match. Photo: Wellington Rugby Football Union

To highlight the issue it released a video of an under-13s game where All Black Vito had gone undercover as a referee, with his Wellington teammates Reg Goodes, Jason Woodward and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen acting as officials and parents.

At full-time Vito revealed his identity and said some of the supporters were embarrassed when he spoke to them about his experience.

Wellington Rugby Union head of community rugby Will Caccia-Birch told Nine to Noon Vito had been shocked by the abuse he received, including children swearing at him and telling him what to do.

"He was saying these kids were only about 10 or 11 and were swearing and 'giving me heaps'," Caccia-Birch said.

"Vito said they knew their laws, but they seemed to think that gave them the right to tell the ref what to do."

Victor Vito reveals his identity after the match.

Victor Vito reveals his identity after the match. Photo: Wellington Rugby Football Union

Although there were some actors used in the video, Caccia-Birch said it did reflect the reality.

"There was an element of staging to that production... We did have some actors on the sideline as well but it doesn't detract from the point that we're trying to make, it was a true enough reflection of what we are seeing on the sideline."

He said some of the people featured in the video, who had their faces pixellated out, had been actors.

The video did not make clear at any point actors were involved in stirring up the crowd, but Caccia-Birch said some of the reactions were genuine.

"We see this as a reflection to a degree of what we've seen and experienced as administrators of our sport of occurrences that take place on our sidelines."

"Victor, in his position on the day as a referee out in the middle of the field, certainly was taken by surprise. And I think that's one of the key points that particularly for our officials, every Saturday they give up their time to provide people with a game of rugby.

He said if people saw abusive sideline behaviour at games they had a responsibility to report it.

"If we don't know about it we can't act," he said.

"And we do have or have had constant behaviour that's warranted further attention. We have the ability once we're able to establish a situation and have it reported by our members, to deal with the matter."

"There is a small minority that has a negative impact and the retention of kids and volunteers.

"We find it very difficult to get refs season to season and that sort of behaviour certainly doesn't help.

"We all have that responsibility to stamp that out."

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