Staffordshire referees look forward to this most special of new seasons and the opportunity to renew friendships on and off the field. Like some players, there may be some initial rustiness as we strive for match fitness in both the mental and physical sense, so please don’t expect perfection just yet!
You will hopefully be aware of the Global Law Trials that were introduced on 1st August: let me say that it is important not to get carried away with them. The 50:22 and goal-line drop-out trials are mainly tactical in nature and, if pre-season games are any indication, are not likely to crop up with great frequency: likewise, the banning, for safety reasons, of more than one player ‘latching’ on to the ball carrier similar to a ‘flying wedge’.
Of greater importance to players, coaches and spectators should be the key messages that referees have received from on high. As usual, the RFU, fond as they are of a bit of alliteration, tell us to be mindful of the need for Safety – Speed – Space. One may expect to see a greater attention paid than previously to situations such as a speedy release of the ball at the tackle, quicker formation at the line-out (no more prolonged huddles 10 metres away from the lineout) and no lengthy explanation of decisions at PK & FKs, for example. Similarly, less management (and more sanction) of the offside line, particularly when scrum halves take a step back before a box kick. The Training & Development section of the society has already given presentations to the SRU CDC and are always open to invitations from clubs.
The green & blue cards of old are being replaced by electronic versions on Who’s the Ref so the society expects great competition this season for the Maurice Clift Club of the Year award – details to be sent to all clubs shortly. The blue card does contain sections on ‘Pitch’ – markings, flag posts, protectors, barriers) – and ‘Conduct of all pitchside personnel & spectators’ which rather neatly leads me to my hope that all clubs will take the time to visit www.srusr.co.uk and re-read our policy document on ‘Core Values and Touchline Management’ which carries the endorsement of the SRU.
Finally, a plea for volunteers. Our appeal for Match Official Developers has got off to a fantastic start, albeit from existing members of the society. We still need club watchers, ideally one or more at each club and we will be adding to our initial investment of £1200 in due course (any offers of sponsorship greatly accepted!!). However, these new MODs need referees to watch! We still have Craig Maxwell-Keys and Greg Macdonald at the highest level of refereeing and the West Midlands Federation Development Group comprises entirely of Staffordshire referees. Staffordshire rugby needs referees of a high calibre at every level within the community game and the society has the resources to enable any referee to meet and exceed their targets as a referee, regardless of whether they wish to remain a ‘club’ referee or venture out around the county and possibly beyond. Contact us through our website and join us at one of our monthly meetings.
With high hopes and best wishes for an enjoyable season.