The referee as part of the game

(Rugby News Service) Thursday 21 June 2007

By Bruce Cook, IRB Training Manager

For many years, the role of the referee in the game of rugby has been seen to have a major effect and therefore a major importance. In many countries now, seminars are held about the game that brings together players, coaches and referees, as well as others involved in the game.

The IRB has held a number of Conferences on the Playing of the Game over the past few years, and this composition of attendees has worked extremely well.

Many countries now have technical seminars and general rugby conferences that bring both coaches and referees together for the purpose of taking the game forward.

To assist in this process, the following information may prove to be a useful resource for a rugby province, state or national Union.


To put process in place which will enable officials to be seen as part of the game To ensure that there is an awareness of the global nature of the game, and of the major role that your Union should take in promoting those areas that it sees as beneficial for the ongoing game development.


  1. Recruit
  2. Retain
  3. Training and Education


1. Recruitment

The specific areas of recruitment and retention have been addressed in numerous publications and will also be the focus of a paper soon to be made available by the IRB entitled "Referee Recruitment and Retention".

These recruitment and retention strategies should be developed in conjunction with all those involved with rugby as applicable, and then implemented by states, provinces and regional referee associations.

This could be through payment for officiating, uniform supply and career prospects. There is now suggestions from many Unions, that a policy be developed that would allow processes to be put in place for the development of criteria for payment of officials at all levels of the game.

The area of officiating should be promoted as a viable and rewarding alternative to other aspects of the game. The major target area should be schools and juniors, with a culture to be developed of continue playing but still referee. This will allow for the development of game knowledge. The targeting of ex players is still not a growth area of referee recruitment for reasons of player burn out, family and business etc.

There should be enhancement of the linkages between the rugby coaching development officer area and the referee development officers. This applies across the broad spectrum of the game from the community rugby level to elite.

2. Retention

In general terms, the following process can be targeted.
Offering suitable appointments with regards to the ability of the official. Setting individual multi-stranded pathways for officials, as they do not all develop in parallel. Systems process should be in place early in the career of the official. The Union should launch a scheme to educate spectators about the area of refereeing, dealing in part with referee abuse. Officials should be equipped with management skills to enable them to handle situations that arise with supporters of the game. Awareness that officials are part of the rugby "family" and as such should act and be treated as a family member.

3. Training and Education

Career pathways (full-time, part-time, volunteer) should be made evident, not only in refereeing, but also referee coaching, touch judging, assessing, selecting and administration. Accreditation courses should continue to be regularly evaluated, reviewed and developed. Course trainers should be trained and offered on-going education to provide a pool of quality course accreditation training specialists. Programs for the professional development of officials should be in place. All participants involved in the game at any level should be aware of and offered on-going education in the game as it evolves.


To ensure the proper functioning of the three initiative areas, the following administration processes, which affect all initiatives, should be put in place.

There should be commitment to the National Union and it's policies, derived through consultation, by provincial, state, and regional referee associations, and referee development officers. Agreements should be made at all levels to cross share resources. Proper and applicable use should be made of all full time rugby employees as time and resource implications permit. Procedures to communicate promptly global and national changes in the game should be improved through the proper use of budgetary policies, which will enable the use of available technologies. There should be systems in place to ensure that we adjust to a wider domestic market, through appropriate research and targeting. More face-to-face contact and direction by Unions and their referee development officers to all levels and geographic regions of the game. This should be proportional to needs and funds. Put in place processes to ensure that the right people are identified to be recruitment and development officers, and volunteer and full time RDO's. Put a structure in place to identify and reward volunteers who perform well. All administration must be resourced and planned properly.


These are human, financial and technological. They do not sit as individual entities but are integrally related to each other.

Research and feasibility studies should be done in all areas of resource requirement. The right person must occupy every position whether it is full time, part time or volunteer. Funding must be made available to ensure that major communication points are properly resourced with appropriate technologies. There should be a marketing strategies identified to ensure the presentation of officials in the most positive manner. This would relate to senior referee with image promotion.