Following the trail blazed by ex-Saracens player Glen Jackson (now a full-time referee with the NZRFU), England and Harlequins scrum half, Karl Dickson is planning is post-playing career with a whistle in his hand. Here are some sections of the BBC interview in which he explains his thinking
Karl Dickson: Harlequins scrum-half on his quest to referee
With more money coming into the game of rugby union than ever before, coaches and players have never been under such pressure.
Although not quite at football-type levels, sackings certainly do happen, while many players live on a constant tightrope, hoping they have done enough each season to earn another year or two on the contract.
The same applies to referees, who have seldom been under more scrutiny. The laws are constantly being tinkered with, television producers pore over every contentious decision, while teams prepare for different referees in different ways, doing anything and everything they can to tip the balance in their favour. It has never been harder to be the man in the middle.
It is perhaps not surprising then that, apart from the former Saracens fly-half Glen Jackson, who took up refereeing full-time in 2010 and a year later was taking charge of international matches, the number of professional players who have turned to officiating is tiny.
Jackson remains the only player to play professional rugby at the top level, and then officiate to the same standard.
Why is this the case? It is a question I put to the Harlequins and England scrum-half Karl Dickson – a man who is looking to buck the trend. Dickson started refereeing in January and has already been fast-tracked through the amateur levels.
“I don’t really know the answer to that,” he told BBC Sport. “I’m guessing some people don’t see it as a lucrative job.
“Some people want to go into business, while other guys maybe feel after 15 years playing rugby they want to leave the sport behind and move on.”
Dickson thinks that players, and supporters, will instinctively have more respect for a referee who has played the game at the highest level. “I believe the more former players we can get into refereeing, the better the refereeing is going to be,” the 32-year-old continued.
“I’ve got a lot of stuff to work on, but you can’t say to someone who’s played the game at the highest level ‘you don’t know what you are doing’.
“How can you referee a game you’ve never played? Obviously guys learn, but the best learning experience is being involved. That’s where I feel my expertise is going to be, especially being a scrum-half and always being in and around the breakdown.
“The more people we can get into it, the better the game is going to go, and the less whinging we might have about refereeing.”
The Rugby Football Union’s head of professional game match officials, Tony Spreadbury, agrees.
“We want to encourage any ex-player to take up the whistle, because their game understanding is high up there, while their fitness is readymade,” he says. “We will have in place a shortcut to the senior level, there is no doubt about that.”
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