High made a huge contribution to rugby refereeing as a profession. A former international referee and referee assessor, he became the RFU’s first National Referee Manager in 1997 and helped to create and managed the Union’s Elite Referee Unit from 2001 until he retired in 2008.
He helped in the development of many up and coming match officials and, as well as his contribution to refereeing in England and later in Scotland, he helped develop referees for other nations including: Russia, Romania, Uruguay and Morocco.
On retiring from the RFU, he joined Scottish Rugby on a part-time basis as a high performance referee coach, working with their leading referees and was presented with the Referee Award for Distinguished Service by World Rugby’s forerunner, the IRB, in 2010.
He took charge of six Test matches from 1988-1991, including France v Wales and Wales v USA in 1987 and New Zealand v Scotland in the First Test in Dunedin in 1990. An IRB assessor from 1996 to 2006, he was also RFU Council member for Cumbria from 1996-97.
Tony Spreadbury, the RFU’s Head of Professional Game Match Officials, said: “Colin was a real inspiration. The game having gone professional for players, he was fundamental in pioneering professional refereeing in England, having helped to develop many young officials.
“His passion for the game and for refereeing and his undoubted expertise will have left a tremendous legacy.
“Having been appointed by Colin as one of the RFU’s first professional referees, I know that he will be missed by the game and his many friends within it. Most of all he will be missed by his wife Cora, son Stephen and daughter Julia and his close family. They are very much in our thoughts at this time.”
Phil Winstanley the Rugby Director at Premiership Rugby said: “Colin High was the forerunner of today’s elite referee unit. In his own inimitable way he developed the concept of professional referees before passing the mantle to first Ed Morrison and more recently, Tony Spreadbury.
“Colin’s views were always forthright and insightful and there is no doubt that he pioneered the landscape for today’s professional referees. His honesty and friendship will be missed by many, many people within the game. ”