The Perks of Being a Rugby Referee
Want to support rugby in one of the most important ways imaginable, and look great doing it? Become a referee. As a fast-growing sport, rugby is in great need of quality match officials.
Referees get to be right in the middle of the game they love, and get paid for the privilege. As certified experts on the game, their skills and knowledge are highly sought-after. Once certified as a referee, you have the ability to officiate games that could potentially lead to a National Championship.
Being a referee can also open opportunities you may not have had as a player, such as international travel and involvement in world-class competition.
There are some excellent programs out there to help anyone who wishes to be a referee achieve their goal. The Rugby Pennsylvania organization runs the MORE program (Match Official Recruitment & Enrichment), which seeks to overcome the shortage of certified referees and touch judges in the state.
Meeting the Need for Rugby Officials
MORE encourages clubs to nominate and sponsor individuals—a parent, coach, alum, etc.—for referee training. In return, RugbyPA reimburses member clubs for one referee or touch judge certification course during each competition year (Sept. 1 to August 31).
"The goal is that every team will have at least one person who can cover a B-side match, thus freeing the referee to travel to his/her next assignment or provide a chance to rest before the next match," notes Scott Brown of RugbyPA.
The MORE program aims to both build the referee pool and establish a long-term base of knowledgeable, quality officials. "Growing numbers aside, the more we can provide the development opportunity for a few new referees, the greater the chance we they will remain active and ready to cover the needs of our organization," Brown says.
Other state rugby associations and referee societies also offer incentives for individuals to get referee training. Rugby New Jersey has established a Referee Scholarship Program, for instance.
USA Rugby sponsors the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund, which offers aspiring referees the chance to spend an entire season in New Zealand as a member of the Canterbury Referee Association, or train in South Africa. USA Rugby also, of course, offers numerous referee courses around the country.
Tough but Rewarding
Being a referee can be a challenge, especially when faced with animosity from overzealous coaches, but the new wave of rugby training looks to alleviate this problem by involving coaches and players in the training and development process. Rugby associations are beginning to understand that players and coaches can improve their game by understanding the rules from a match official's perspective. MORE does this by encouraging rugby clubs to contribute their own members to the pool of referees.
As Brown puts it, "We [all] have to ask ourselves, as advocates of youth sports ... If we are losing the best refs to the national stage, or even to a stage that appreciates them more, what am 'I' doing to build the referees?"
The goal is to improve the game for everyone—something any lover of rugby can get behind.
As stated on the Potomac Rugby Referees website, “Whether you’re a current player considering life after hanging up your boots, a keen parent or just curious to know what it’s like to have the best seat in the house, you’ll find that refereeing is rewarding, challenging, and, above all, great fun.”