Chris Bath recently joined NMSRFR on returning to the UK after a spell in the Middle East. He has kindly agreed to write a series of articles reflecting on the differences between his prior refereeing experience and the new challenge he faces here in the cold and rain. Over to Chris…
Coming back to the UK after living abroad for a great number of years, refereeing seemed a perfect way to get back into the swing of things. There was also a real interest into how it all worked here, with England having so many levels of rugby and teams and the hierarchies of RFU and county.
Refereeing opportunities in the United Arab Emirates have grown in recent years, from 7 teams in 5 countries only about 20 years ago to now 3 divisions of between 8 and 11 teams in UAE alone and school rugby at U16 and U18 level is approaching 10 to 12 team league level.
Looking recently at the appointments through the link on the society webpage there are more regional appointments than the whole of Gulf Rugby in one weekend.
Attending the ERRA in Leicester last weekend was a lesson in those differences in numbers allowing a degree of interaction smaller Unions can only hope for, although the game simulations did get a tad competitive at some point.
It was very interesting to be a lot closer to the RFU and the new much heavier emphasis on player welfare. With so many levels of rugby there seemed a great deal of flexibility and common sense to the refereeing approach.
The UAE is a hot desert environment, with much of the rugby played similar to fast and hard South African and even U16 games are played and coached with minimum breakdown and plenty of offloading, it will be interesting indeed to experience the mud and rain of a cold English club game.
One small positive change, while North Midlands referee appointments seemingly cover 3 counties and some almost hour and a half drives, it’s considerably shorter than counting camels for 4 hours between Ras Al Khaimah and Abu Dhabi.