Criticism of Rugby Referees…

It has often puzzled me how the Association of Referees Leinster Branch recruit people as referees when we consider the comments and sometime abuse that is often aimed at them, which in most cases is unjustified…

We in the Leinster Rugby Referees accept that people are passionate about their teams and that is what rugby is all about. However we cannot, and will not allow the support for teams to be an excuse for unjustified and at times insulting commentary and actions.

How often have you hear people comment on the referee’s eyesight, fitness, parentage and their physical size to justify comments on what are often correct decisions that a referee takes during the game? Even if a referee’s decision is wrong, does this justify such comment? What I always say is; try and imagine yourself at the receiving end of such comments and maybe your wife, partner or children standing on the sideline watching the match, how acceptable would it be to you? We are only human. Have you ever seen a referee in any code change his decision? No. And you never will.

Has it ever occurred to any rugby supporter how so many people are experts in the job of refereeing without ever having done the job themselves? Would you feel competent in giving instructions to someone having never done the job yourself? I don’t think so.

The job of refereeing takes years of training, undergoing courses and experience in order to referee at the highest level today.

This does not mean that we do not welcome reasonable, considered comment. Whether that be critical or complimentary. It is and it will be used to improve the performance of our referees. There are people in the game of rugby, members of clubs, sports writers and commentators who know the game and very importantly know the laws of the game.

When comments are made I would like to think they would be constructive and genuine. A broad comment like the referee ‘was a disgrace’ or ‘poor’, without been specific, are absolutely no value in the training of referees.

We in the Leinster Rugby Referees are constantly carrying out assessments on all our referees and improving their match performances. If someone criticises a referee’s performance it should be based on fact not just to sound poplar among your club members.

I would like to compliment the IRFU and the Leinster Branch Disciplinary Committees on their approach to referee abuse, both verbal and physical. The sanctions that have been handed out in recent seasons are to be applauded.

We in Leinster Referees with the help of IRFU must be doing something right just look at International Rugby Board Elite Referee Panel, the Irish lads keep hitting the top, which isn’t bad for a small nation. Long may it continue.

Enjoy the season.

Referee’s Corner…

Area: Metro Dublin City and County

How many referees: 96

Clubs in region: 30 clubs ranging from Junior to Senior along with approx 65 affiliated Schools teams

Name Rep: Ken Henley-Willis

Club: No Club

Occupation: Sales Coach at Dell Computers

Status/Children: Getting married to Suzie this Christmas who has one daughter Lauren.

Referee career: Having played rugby through his school days until he was 16, Ken attended the Schools Boys Course run by Bertie Smith (ex International Referee) in Cork in 1997.

Shortly after this an IRFU Youth Panel of Referees was created by Owen Doyle, IRFU Director of Referees which allowed Ken and other young referees attend and participate in regular workshops delivered by David Keane and David McHugh, IRFU Referee Development Officers.

In 2002 Ken was promoted to the National Panel of Referees where he joined the other top referees in the country. Shortly afterwards Ken was awarded the IRFU Young Referee of the year.

To date some of Ken’s career highlights include refereeing in AIL Division 1 at the end of his first season on the National Panel along with refereeing the Leinster Junior Schools Cup Final in 2004 and the Leinster Senior Schools Cup Final in 2007. Ken has also represented the IRFU in Underage Internationals along with acting as Assistant Referee in Magners League and Heineken Cups.

Although a referee spends a lot of time by themselves the Leinster Rugby Referees does offer a “Club” feeling where Ken has established friendships with colleagues. This “Club” feeling offers the group the opportunity to train together while also learning and developing from each others on field experiences.

In 2008 whilst injured Ken was approached to stay involved with refereeing and got involved as the Area Rep for the Metro Area. As an Area Rep the role consists of taking each new recruit once they have completed their Foundation Course delivered by David Keane and appoint them to games to get them ready for their trial game. This consists of an assessment on their competency, law knowledge and fitness. Once they pass this trial they are handed over to the Appointments Committee who will appoint them to games each weekend.

Another part of the role is to organise regular meetings with Referees in the area. As the biggest Area in Leinster the Metro Area has the benefits on calling on some of its own members to help with delivering workshops and law sessions. Members of the Metro Area include two of the most experienced referees in the world in Alain Rolland and Alan Lewis who are never shy when asked to help out at these meetings. The Metro area also has other high profile names such as David Keane who has over 100 caps in the IRB Seven’s and Dudley Phillips who is currently on the Amlin Challenge Cup Panel of Referees who also partake in delivering workshops.

The final part of the Role is to monitor the Metro Referees progress throughout the season, help where possible and be the go to person for referees who are having issues or need help in any way they can. As part of this role Ken sits on the Executive of the ARLB representing referees within the Metro Area.

Subaru Ireland continue sponsorship of Leinster Referees…

Neville Matthews, Managing Director of the award-winning brand, Subaru, has announced that Subaru would continue with the very successful sponsorship with Leinster Rugby Referees..

Alan Lewis, Alain Rolland (both Leinster Rugby Referees), Neville Matthews (Subaru Ireland), Fran Nolan (President Leinster Rugby Referees), Dudley Philips (Leinster Rugby Referees) and Michael Kirby (Subaru Ireland) at the announcement of Subaru's sponsorship of Leinster Rugby Referees.

“We have found that during our association with the Leinster Rugby Referees and rugby in general, awareness of the Subaru brand has increased dramatically,” he said.

With the recent introduction of diesel to the Subaru model line-up Subaru can look forward to that awareness reaching new heights over the coming seasons.

Matthews also went on to pay tribute to the Leinster Rugby Referees for their tireless dedication and professionalism shown whilst carrying on their official duties, in all weathers, throughout the length and breadth of Leinster.

The President of the ARLB (Leinster Rugby Referees) Fran Nolan thanked Subaru for their continued sponsorship in difficult economic times and said that it had been very beneficial to both parties over the last six years.

Also present at the launch were our International referees Alain Rolland Alan Lewis and IRFU referee Dudley Phillips.

Malahide RFC named ARLB club of the year

Malahide Rugby Football Club was announced as ARLB club of the year at the associations annual dinner on Saturday 27th March. The award, voted annually by the active referees in Leinster has gone to a junior club for the second year in a row, with Ashbourne RFC winning in 2009. Malahide ranked highly in all four categories voted on – Changing Facilities, Pitch Conditions and Markings, Hospitality and Co-Operation of Captains and Teams. They narrowly pipped Clontarf and 2008 winners UCD for the award.

There were over 60 votes cast by the member of the association. Bernard Doyle, active referee of Malahide RFC collected the award on behalf of his club. He said that it was ‘ a great honour for the club to receive the recognition of the referees’ and he hopes that the referees can vote for them again in 2011.

Bud Light Tag

The IRFU are currently finalizing their plans for this year’s Bud Light Tag Rugby program. Once again Tag Rugby will be played at a venue near you.
If you wish to referee Tag this summer please confirm by contacting Please also indicate which venue(s) from the list below that you will be available to referee at. It is important that you let us know your intention to ref as soon as possible as this year there is a limit to the amount of refs we can register for each venue.
The IRFU will be in touch in due course regarding the Tag referees workshops which will be taking place around the country.
Tag is a great way to stay in shape over the summer and is extremely enjoyable. Many IRFU referees have either started their careers in tag or furthered their refereeing careers through tag.
2010 Bud Light Tag Rugby Venues
Leinster Blackrock College RFC (Wed/Thurs), St. Marys College RFC (Mon/Wed/Thurs), Old Belvedere RFC (Wed/Thurs), Suttonians RFC (Thurs), Tallaght RFC (Thurs), Enniscorthy RFC (Thurs), Mullingar (Thurs), Navan (Fri)

Presidents Address 2009

We are just entering what I anticipate will be an exceptionally busy season. A number of changes in competition fixtures will put increased pressure on our resources. This will require the optimum level of availability from all members.

In the last number of years the “off season” seems to get shorter and shorter. This is equally true of the Referees Association. During the “off season” your Executive have been exceptionally busy in putting in place new structures and amending others with the objective of up skilling all our referees for the coming season. We are striving to have all our referees refereeing to their optimum level.

To this end the Assessing Teams and Referee Groups have been changed. The number of groups has been reduced to six. Two Liaison Officers, Des McCabe and Tony deLacy, have been appointed. Their purpose is to allow referees to air their views, observations or “complaints” through their Area Representatives. This is attempting to create a clear line of communication for referees to ensure their voice is heard.

A new dedicated Coaching structure under the co-ordination of Donal Courtney has been put in place with five coaches. Referees for coaching will be determined by the Selection Committees and assessing team. This will be available to all referees at all grades.

Our Senior Development panels will be given selected matches. The objective is to have each of these referees assessed and coached twice pre-Christmas and post Christmas. The objective being to prepare them for possible entry to the I.R.F.U. IPAS System.

For the coming Season we have two new Area Reps. Ken Henley Willis in the Metro Area and Paddy Curran in the Midlands. Gerry Maher has agreed to co-ordinate laws meetings for the Areas. Topics for Area meetings will be agreed with the Area Reps. To ensure all meetings are getting the same message agreed topics will be presented to each area. This is not meant to disturb the individuality of each area as each topic will only comprise part of the meeting – the balance being used as each individual area sees fit.

While we strive at all levels to have a consistency in refereeing this is equally important from an assessing perspective. We have increased the number of Assessors in the last number of years. This has resulted in significantly increased assessments. We must ensure consistency from assessors and that new assessors are suitably coached in the art of assessing.

At times some members may feel, understandably so, that the concentration appears to be on younger referees who show promise. I would like to emphasise that all referees, at all levels, are equally important. We have players at all levels. This equally applies to referees. We have a responsibility to provide competent referees for all players. If you are one of these referees who sometimes feels “unloved” and on the periphery I can assure you are not. If you feel we are letting you down or ignoring you let us know through your Area Reps. – we will listen.

As President for the coming Season my enjoyment of this special year will be directly linked to the extent to which we help all members to achieve their goals and maximise their enjoyment of the Season.

In conclusion I would like to wish all members an enjoyable and successful Season in whatever capacity you serve the Association.

Jerome Counihan

ARLB Mission Statement

“To recruit, retain and continuously develop qualified referees to meet current and future demands of the game.”
The Referee Development Plan is the vehicle through which an agreed, effective and integrated Refereeing Recruitment, Training and Development framework will be achieved.

Under the leadership of the Irish Rugby Football Union, Leinster Branch and in partnership with the Association of Referees Leinster Branch the provision of more enjoyable and fulfilling opportunities will be achieved through the delivery of high quality programmes, structures and facilities.

Presidents Address 2008

I am very honoured and proud to be elected as your President for the coming season. I would like to thank Norman Camier for proposing me and I know that I have a hard act to follow, given the tremendous work done last year- particularly in the areas of recruitment, retention and communication.

Our Association faces many challenges in the months ahead not least in maintaining the momentum on recruitment and retention. We are fortunate in having David Keane focused on recruitment in Leinster and a heightened awareness among the Area Reps. of the importance of retaining these recruits mainly through ensuring that they get matches. I believe it is the responsibility of every member of the ARLB to be constantly on the look out for potential new members and to pass on their details to David Keane.

Last season we introduced a new assignment system for assessors which like any new system needed time to bed in and be tested. This system has now been refined and a huge amount of work has been done by Jerome Counihan, Fran Nolan and Bernard Boland. This system will work and it requires the commitment of all concerned to ensure it does – Assessors and Referees alike !. It is our ambition that every active referee will be assessed at least twice during next season.

The impending introduction of the Experimental Law Variations, ( ELV )s, has been well publiscised. ELVs will be the keynote topic at the Seminar on August 17th. , delivered by IRFU personnel. It is imperative that all active referees attend the seminar as our selectors are not allowed to appoint match officials who have not attended an IRFU presentation on ELVs. I would also urge all active referees to ensure they maintain/improve their fitness levels as fitness will be more important than ever next season.

I would like to take this opportnity in congratulating John Montayne on reaching the AIL National Panel and to John Carvil on receiving an IRFU contract. Well done to you both.

Finally I wish you all a successful and enjoyable season in whatever role you fill in the ARLB. I am always available to take suggestions and constructive criticism and I look forward to meeting you all on August 17th.

Brian Pender

Refereeing in the Arabian Gulf

By James Fitzgerald
Refereeing rugby in the Arabian Gulf is full of surprises. Some are pleasant, others not so much.

The first surprise is the heat. Well, I suppose it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that at the beginning of September when the season starts the temperatures are well over 40 degrees, regardless of whether you play at day or night. But even though your mind might be prepared for it, your body will still be shocked to the point of threatening to cease functioning unless you find a shady area to curl up and die.
Let’s just say Law 5.7 (g) is one we know well and we’re not afraid to use it.

Another surprise is the amount of rugby that is out here. Although mostly the domain of expats from the world’s foremost rugby-playing nations, the administrators of rugby in the gulf are trying to evangelise by introducing the game into schools attended by locals, with mixed results.

But there is certainly no shortage of Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Japies, French (in fact, there is a club based in Dubai called the French Frogs), Yanks, Canucks, Paddies and South Sea islanders to make up the numbers.
Currently, I am on the Gulf Premiership panel which means I travel around the region reffing games in places as exotic as Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman as well as in the United Arab Emirates from Abu Dhabi through Dubai and up to Sharjah. There are also teams in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon that we help out if they are short a ref, which is most of the time. This is not exactly rugby heartland but it does afford one the chance to travel to some pretty interesting places, which beats a trip to Edenderry on a wet Sunday afternoon in November.

Another surprise was turning up to Kuwait Nomads Rugby Club and being told this barren, grassless wasteland was the pitch. Sand was falling out of me for a week afterwards. The post-match function in the dry state of Kuwait was interesting – never underestimate the ingenuity of man, particularly when that man is a thirsty rugby player. What they do is they buy crates of alcohol-free beer which is freely on sale at the supermarket, add yeast and basically reverse the process, leaving the mixture to ferment in five gallon drums for a few weeks. The result is a powerful and tooth-curling home brew that makes you grateful for the relatively liberal regime in the UAE.

Being part of ARFU (the IRB’s regional association for Asia) also brings its opportunities and in the two years I have been here I have been sent on refereeing appointments to Sri Lanka (twice), Thailand and Hong Kong and I am currently working towards getting a place on the IRB Asia Five Nations panel that could bring some tier two international experience. We also provide the TJs and in-goal judges for the IRB Sevens Series in Dubai.
I still get to watch the Magners League and Heineken Cup matches on TV here and I have to admit I get a little pang of homesickness when I see the crowds huddled and half-cut in a freezing Thomond Park, Sportsground or Ravenhill as the ARLB’s finest stand firm against the wind, rain and spectators’ abuse. With the temperatures hitting a pleasant and always-sunny 30 degrees here these days, perhaps my hankering for Leinster rugby is the biggest surprise of all.