Call for more support for refereeing from authorities – IRB Confex 2014

Refereeing needs more support from the rugby authorities. That’s according to a distinguished panel for former international players at the IRB Conference and Exhibition (IRB ConfEx) in London this week.

Speaking as part of a ConFex panel looking at the state of the game, Sean Fitzpatrick (New Zealand, 92 caps), Thomas Castaignede (54 caps for France) and Agustin Pichot (capped 71 times for Argentina) all agreed that when it come to attracting more former players into the refereeing community, the authorities have plenty of work to do. ┬áSpeaking at the event, Sean Fitzpatrick said, “Former players just don’t see it as a career path, maybe the IRB need to make more of it as career opportunity,” highlighting the decision fellow Kiwi, Glen Jackson made as an exception. Pichot commented, “There’s plenty of effort to get players into coaching, but refereeing has been left behind.”

So what’s the solution? Fitzpatrick was keen to see the “world’s best referees refereeing every week, no matter where that is”, advocating that the IRBs top pool be centrally contracted to the global body. Interestingly, he was also keen to see that they travel as teams of three as “there’s an awful lot of decisions given by┬áthe Assistant Referees.” The Football authorities have identified that in recent years and most international referees travel with their assistants as part of a consistent team, no matter which completion they are officiating in.

Also discussed was the need for more openness and transparency from the top. There seems to be a game wide reluctance for referees to be put in the immediate public spotlight, for understandable reason. But in the absence of a public voice, the point of public perception of referees remains an issue. “I think the players and coaches and the media should get together more often” said Castaignede, “That way, the public can better understand what the referees are doing and looking at. But it’s very complex for referees and they are human beings and mistakes happen.”

What is clear is that the IRB, and national bodies, need to communicate areas around game, law and protocols. It is evident from the current autumn internationals, that some of the coaches don’t understand the TMO protocols, so what chance does the rugby public have? will be putting these points to the IRB over the next few days.