The Principles of a Referee

July 7, 2017

We have all been involved in games, either as a spectator, player or coach where we have witnessed exceptional refereeing, or sadly, poor refereeing, which has affected a game one way or another. Each referee has their own style in implementing the same laws of the game, but what truly makes up the core elements of a ref?

As a referee myself and a proud member of the Yorkshire referee’s society, I have refereed many games at most age groups, both male and female rugby. For me, every game is about promoting the core values of the RFU – teamwork, discipline, sportsmanship, enjoyment and respect. But how can the referee ensure these values are put into their own refereeing performance and pass the importance of the values onto everyone involved in the game?


At grassroots level it's often the case that we referee alone; very rarely do we have the privilege of qualified touch judges. But when we do, working as a knowledgeable and coordinated team is essential to ensure the the game flows in a safe and productive manner. Welcome all club officials, players and spectators and coordinate with them to ensure the game goes well and to plan.


The referee must be the sole judge of discipline in the field of play. The laws must be maintained and fair play promoted at all times. As a referee not only must we ensure players keep their discipline but we must uphold our own too. It's essential we maintain our self-control even under pressure, in order that we're not swayed by others points of view.


As a referee we promote fair play and place paramount importance on safety, wellbeing and on-field banter that's in good faith. I love to see a mutual respect between teams. 


It can’t be denied that the referees performance can affect the overall feeling of a game and be the difference between enjoyment of a game and leaving feeling low and un-motivated. Promote enjoyment by allowing the game to flow within the laws of the game, fair play and not punishing players unnecessarily. Instead we promote our great sport by ensuring everyone leaves looking forward to the next game, regardless of the result. 


The referee must show respect for everyone involved, displaying strong communication skills that never belittle anyone. Obviously this aspect works both ways, and the more mutual respect shown, the smoother the game with flow. 

Other key areas include honesty, trust, knowledge of the game, empathy, encouragement, fairness, approachable and committed.

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