WARRINGTON Wolves chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick said he was 'disappointed' to read St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus' criticism of Challenge Cup final referee Robert Hicks.

McManus launched an astonishing attack against Hicks in his programme notes before the game with Castleford last weekend after Saints were stunned 18-4 by the Wire at Wembley.

It centred around the decision not to refer a potential early St Helens try to the video referee.

McManus wrote: "It would be remiss of me to be silent on the officiating both during and before the game.

"How a referee can be involved in a publicity stunt with the CEO of a participating club in the week before a Challenge Cup final defies belief and reason.

"This apparently resulted from some pathetic spat on the open sewer that is Twitter some weeks before. The fact referees go, and are allowed to go, on Twitter with fans is utterly beyond me: no good can come from it and clearly no good does.

"Resultantly, the perception of officiating impartiality was destroyed even before kick-off. This was amply consolidated, in the eyes of many, in reality when Hicks incomprehensibly did not go to the video referee for Morgan Knowles' clear and legitimate opening try and then followed it up shortly with other highly questionable decisions."

Warrington Guardian:

Wire beat St Helens 18-4

Fitzpatrick said referees are increasingly subjected to online abuse and that the issue had to be tackled.

He added: "So to read the comments by a club chairman almost discrediting that was very disappointing.

"When you have club chairman questioning them in such a public way, it really is disappointing.

"They have a difficult enough job and without the officials we would not have a game."

He also said the timeline of events put out by McManus was wrong. The meeting with Hicks, which came about after an online death threat following a game earlier this season, took place before the cup semi-final with Hull in July – more than a month prior to the Wembley clash.

And Fitzpatrick praised Hicks' performance on the day.

Warrington Guardian:

Karl Fitzpatrick

"He probably made a mistake at the start but I thought he had a great game after that, you almost didn't notice him", he added.

"He was also fantastic in the semi-final and that is probably why he got the job for the final.

"As a sport I think we do give so much focus to referees and not on the players as it should be.

"Sky are fantastic partners but they have a former referee as part of their commentary team.

"I like Stuart Cummings but we analyse every decision and a lot of those decisions can come down to interpretation as well."

An RFL statement said: "The Rugby Football League is saddened by the content of the club chairman's matchday programme column of Friday 30 August and the matter has been referred to the RFL's Compliance Team.

"Several inaccuracies were contained in the piece, including concerning the timeline of the death threat to an official's family and subsequent work with the police. It is a serious misreading of the situation to refer to a request by ITV for a brief news interview (concerning the threat made a month earlier) as some form of contrived stunt."