The best video record of the incident (that I'm aware of) can be seen here. Check it out. It's less entertaining than one might have hoped for. In fact it's little more than business as usual except for the names of the prime movers. A bit of controversy and a little drama aren't necessarily bad things for sports--unless it highlights an endemic problem and the sport in question is trying to establish its legitimacy as a sport.
My interest is not in the penalties assessed (except as they pertain to the rule book) nor in the personalities involved. I am not interested (in this post) in whether or not the refs got the call(s) right or not--though it appears they did not. What needs to be kept in mind is that the rule book defines the game we play and the refs adjudicate the process. That is, knowing the rules (oops!), they observe and assure the players play the game within the parameters set out by the rules and/or otherwise assign appropriate penalties for violations of the rules.
One problem competitive paintball has had from the very beginning is that certain of the rules were often written not in bright lines with clear boundaries but in such a way that the promoters could do whatever they wanted whenever they felt the need and use the rules as justification. And one problem the NPPL refs consistently struggle with is a lack of institutional control, a non-functioning hierarchy of authority and no independence whatsoever. Along with generally poor knowledge of the rules.
My question for the NPPL is which rules were applied to 'the incident'? And who made the decisions? And, while I'm at it, why wasn't anything done earlier that might have defused the situation?
As to which rules applied see below. All the relevant portions of all the relevant rules are there. Let's take a look. Neither of the prime movers was penalized under 21.06. How do I know? Because 21.06 also identifies the penalties that violations are subject to; 23.04 & 23.05, which are one game and 3-game suspensions. Nor were the prime movers subject to 21.07 because the penalty is a season long ejection.
Instead we are told each prime mover was given a 6 game suspension. Who handed out those suspensions? It's supposed to be the Head Referee. If it was he doesn't know his own rules and if it wasn't--that's another violation. From the first game of the day the two prime movers had been yapping at each other. (There's other video that shows some of the silliness.) There is no verbal abuse category for a 6 game suspension. There was physical contact but it didn't rise to the level of a so-called headbutt and it was initiated by one player, not both. It was physical contact that resulted in no injury to either party. By rule that's a 3 game suspension.
So again I ask: Which rules applied to the incident? Who made the suspension call? And why wasn't anything done earlier to defuse the situation?
The NPPL currently has an Ultimate Ref who is a nice but ineffectual guy. A Lead Ref who is incompetent and favors friends whether they are competent or not. The league has allowed back refs fired for incompetence and bias and the league rep chose to use his authority over the refs to target another pro team. The rules are meaningless if the designated enforcers of the rules don't know them, can't or won't enforce them or try to manipulate them to whatever end. Is this the new direction the NPPL is going?
21.06 Unsportsmanlike Conduct. Players will be eliminated if they engage in unsportsmanlike like conduct and will be subject to further penalties, see Rules 23.04 and 23.05. Unsportsmanlike conduct may include, but is not limited to:
(4) Verbally abusing any players, spectators or Referees.
21.07 Embarrassing, Dangerous or Destructive Behavior. Teams and players participating in an NPPL sanctioned tournament shall not engage in conduct that would bring the NPPL, the promoter or any sponsor into disrepute. During any tournament weekend, players must not: ... harass or intimidate any individuals; provoke a physical altercation or otherwise incite violence, ... Any player caught violating this rule will be ejected for a full season. See Rule 23.06.
23. Suspensions, Disqualifications, Fine
23.01 Issuing Suspensions and Disqualifications. All Suspensions will be issued by the Head Referee of each field and kept track by the Commissioner. All Disqualifications will be issued by the Commissioner.
23.05 Three-Game Suspension. Players may be suspended, causing the team to play short for three games for the following infractions:
(2) Physical contact. Physical contact during or after play that does not result in injury (e.g., shove, grab, shoulder-bump).
(3) Verbal abuse.
23.06 Six-Game Suspension. Players will be ejected and the team will play short for six games for the following:
(2) Physical contact. Physical contact during or after play (e.g., spit, punch or kick).
23.07 One-Year Suspension. Any player or team that violates Rule 21.07 shall be prohibited from competing in any NPPL tournament for a period of up to one year from the date of the infraction.