Man in black

Actually, referees rarely wear black nowadays, especially since so many teams seem to wear shirts with a large amount of black. In my bag sits shirts of yellow, red, green, and white. I put myself forward as a ref for two reasons:
1. I have carried a back injury (not sports related) for a long time now, which I mistakenly didn’t seek early medical advice on. As some readers may be aware, this injury flared up significantly during my time in Cambridge, leading to almost 12 months of pain and discomfort, eventually requiring significant medicinal pain management and a period of regular physiotherapy. Eventually the Physio said I could go back to playing rugby if I wished, but the thought that one badly executed tackle could have serious repercussions put me off playing. I still wanted to be involved with the game though.
2. As a former marketing and communications manager I am more than a little aware of how PR can spiral out of hand, and the idea that a photo might appear of a known minister acting a little injudiciously on the rugby pitch is not one that fills me with delight – and I know that even the most careful of players can sometimes get carried away with the adrenaline and stress of a match!
Plus, how hard could it be?
Actually, being a referee isn’t simply a case of turning up, running around blowing a whistle, and going away again. Referees hold a lot of power in a match. As we were reminded during the training part of our Society meeting on Monday, the success and failure of players and clubs can rest as much in our hands as theirs. We need to get decisions right as best we can. Of course, like anyone, we’re not perfect – as a new ref I’m more than a little aware of that! It amazing, though, how little one is aware of what a ref does when you are playing.
Today I ref my first league match. I will be there an hour before kick-off (when I played 3rd and 4th XV rugby we were usually doing well if we turned up with enough time just to get changed and do some mild stretches!), to check out the pitch to see that it’s safe to play on, talk to the captains, brief the teams, warm-up myself, make sure there are touch judges from both sides (the Society does provide “teams of three” for major matches, such as cup finals, but not for matches like today’s, a mid-table clash in Devon 2), and ensure we start on time. Once the match is under way I’ll need to watch not just where the ball is but also the wider state of play and positions of players, manage my own positioning to ensure a good view plus ability to follow play efficiently, be clear, accurate and confident in my communications (including use of whistle, signals and verbal instruction and explanation) and player management, and ensure I keep an accurate record of the score, player replacements and any significant disciplinary actions. Of course, I also need to know the Laws of Rugby and be able to apply them appropriately.
As a player, the referee was someone I paid little consideration of, except when disciplining me or another member of our team. In reality, good refereeing requires as much effort as playing, though in different ways, and all used in a way that hopefully remains unnoticed so that the players can remain the focus of the 80 minutes of play. Everyone, including the referee, want the same thing: a good match, with everyone coming off the pitch safe and sound, and with a result determined by the players’ efforts. While I do find refereeing stressful I also enjoy it. It’s good to still be involved in the game, and without people committed to refereeing the game couldn’t happen – something that, in my experience, players fully recognise, at least off the pitch if not always on it!
Anyway, I best get on, and get myself ready to play my part in today’s match.
Whatever you’re up to today, travel well.
The Nomad


About MendipNomad

I'm a nomad both physically and denominationally, but I'll always call the Mendips home. Currently a Methodist Presbyter (Minister) in Cornwall. I love sport, film, tv, socialising, politics (both US and British), and, yes, being part of the church.
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