With the resumption of league rugby it is clear that there is a shortage of referees when compared to the number of games being arranged and posted on Who’s the Ref.
An immediate consequence is that we are able to cover first XV games and little else. May I say straight away that we are receiving similar reports from other societies within Midland Group.
We can identify a number of reasons for this such as retirement, injury, moving from refereeing to National Panel Assistant Refereeing or from refereeing to Match Official Developer. Against this we have had very little in the way of new recruits. The resumption of ERRA courses by the RFU might help but only in the medium to long term – it is of great concern that each of the two courses planned this autumn in Staffordshire have so far each had one registration (out of a capacity of twenty-five) so we are not holding our breath!
In the short term clubs will have to make their own arrangements when it comes to providing referees. A discussion on the reasons why so few are volunteering as a society or club referee is for another day.
I applaud all those who are stepping forward to ‘fill the gap’ by refereeing at their clubs. The society can support those referee volunteers by visiting clubs and giving informal training and advice to them – either on the pitch or by way of an informal open agenda Q&A session in the clubhouse bar one evening. This offer is open to anyone (referees, players, coaches et al) involved at senior and junior levels and clubs are welcome to invite other clubs to participate in any Q&A session. Please note that this is not a replacement of the ERRA course – in fact it is my personal view that anyone who has already taken the ERRA course should get not only a ‘refresher’ on the basic principles of refereeing but also an update on best practice that we in the society routinely deliver to our members.
If anyone has any comments on the above, particularly suggestions as to how we might ease the situation, I will be pleased to hear from you.