Here are just a few snapshots of our refereeing cohort: as you can see they come from all walks of life and backgrounds!
I started refereeing long, long ago in 1987, I was coaching an U14 team for Swanage & Wareham RFC in Dorsehen I was asked to ref an U10s game, from then on I continued to referee most of the U14 home games, as we rarely got a society ref! When I moved to the Midlands in 1991 I continued coaching youth rugby and refereeing. After a while it seemed a good idea to do it officially and so I joined the society in 1994. I have continued to ref on and off ever since and was one of the first to join the YMO scheme as a mentor. I have had to retire from refereeing after 5 games this season due to ongoing issues with dodgy knees from playing too much along with injuries and am now starting a new phase as a “Reviewer / Developer”. (This photo is from one of my last games, Veseyans Vets vs Warwickshire Masonic with the Mason’s captain and recipient of the first penalty – and North Mids stalwart Rab Cooper)
Well I played for Camp Hill RFC and took up refereeing at the age of 33 when I realised that I just wasn’t enjoying playing any more. I fell in love with refereeing after just one game and never looked back. I progressed quite far up the ranks in 2-3 seasons, but had to give up Saturdays due to work commitments, so I focused on Sunday and youth rugby, and eventually took over from Peter Morgan the Sunday appointments secretary position.
I’ve refereed over 950 games in nearly 17 seasons and loved almost every one. I’ve reffed at every North Midlands club apart from Erdington and Pershore and I’ve even refereed in Los Angeles! Away from rugby, I own 3 pawn shops, I still play cricket, squash and poker. My silver wedding anniversary is in March and I’ve three grown up daughters. My wife insists on washing my kit and cleaning my boots and I’m not going to rock that boat! I’ve also just come back from my 21st trip to Las Vegas.
I’m so envious of the YMOs and younger referees, and I wish I’d taken up the whistle sooner. The knees are creaking, my feet hurt and my back doesn’t like me anymore, but I’ll keep going for as long as I can!
A wholly indifferent playing career saw spells in the social sides of Yatton, Launceston, RC Valenciennes & finally Stourbridge. Nearer 40 than 30 & only getting full games when the skipper was either suspended or injured I found myself often arm-twisted into reffing, so did a foundation course back in 2001. Having hit Mike Spencer’s radar my playing days were numbered & I found myself heading up a steep learning curve on back pitches all across North Midlands. 1st XV & exchange games followed & I had reached L6 before taking several years’ Saturday sabbatical to get more involved at Stourbridge.
Though I did Sundays right through I came back to Saturdays in 2017 at L8 and am thoroughly enjoying it still. Unlike the Scott household my wife & I have divergent views on laundry quality management standards – so I do all my own, including the ironing!
When not reffing I’m either doing my UK civil nuclear supply chain day job or bass angling off the beautiful Gower coast – this summer saw my first ever >10lb catch (released back I hasten to add!).Rugby has given me so much – you always make new friends at a rugby club, no matter where in the world – that reffing is the least I can do to put something back, particularly given the enjoyment I get from it. Yes there are moments & individuals that make you wonder why you bother, but believe me for each of those there are many, many more why you should.
I’ve been refereeing now for 2 full seasons, slightly interrupted by the pandemic! After doing the course I have already had many amazing experiences as an AR and also in the middle. The most recent being a trip to Twickenham, the home of rugby, to AR and also be the number one official alongside other YMOs and mentors. I currently have a coach, who is a mentor to help me progress. I’m busy most of the weekend with games, sometimes back to back! I enjoy refereeing because it give a whole new view on how the game works and how it should be played.
I’m Paul, but for some reason I’m occasionally referred to by some clubs as “Barnsey”. No I don’t know why either…!)
I started refereeing in 2015 pretty much by accident. I attended the referee course shortly after completing the level 1 coaching course, keen to learn as much as possible so I could at least make it look like I knew what I was doing when coaching my 11-year-old son and his mates. I’d not played since my school days so was a bit rusty!
Before I knew it, I found myself in the middle of a 3rds game on a freezing cold and wet December day; I was most inappropriately dressed for the conditions and for many reasons it was an absolute shocker!! I’d already agreed to referee another game the next day so despite my first experience and not wanting to let the teams down I gave it another go and have not looked back.
I’m still involved coaching and find that refereeing and coaching really complement each other but I do really enjoy getting in the middle with a whistle and enabling others to have fun playing the game. For me it’s a meditation, the concentration, intensity & focus required when refereeing means that I’m having to clear my mind of everything else and for 80 minutes the game is the most important thing. It gives me a reason to stay fit and helps keep me that way too.
Paul ‘Stretch’ Owens
I’m Stretch, I have 7 kids aged 30-7 and I am a Warrant Officer In the Royal Air Force. I initially qualified as a referee in 2000 to referee mini and youth rugby whilst coaching in Germany. I eventually got back to the UK and continued coaching and refereeing youth rugby as part of the Norfolk Society as well as playing for Swaffham Rugby Club. After a 18 month stint in the Cambridgeshire Society refereeing university games I got a bit of a bug for the whistle.
In 2013 I got posted to RAF Cosford and decided due to injury and age to stop playing. I then thought I should give this Saturday refereeing thing a go and joined North Mids Society.
I love refereeing as a way to give back to the game I love. Someone gave up their time to referee fixtures for me during my 30 year playing career and I feel honoured to be able to repay that to the next generation of players.
As for the picture, this is me near Twickenham officiating the Army v Navy Women’s game a few years back.
I’ve been a ref at North Mids since 2016. I’ve also travelled to work in the Canary Islands and reffed across all of the islands for 13 months before returning to the UK. I can honestly say I’ve had some great opportunities from Twickenham to Worcester Warriors. I have also started a new mission with North Mids and now look after the Reviewers & Developers Team and work with the YMO team
I started refereeing back in 2011 with US Rugby in New York and then in Chicago and New England. I eventually got back to the UK and spent two seasons at Gloucester & District Society before joining North Mids in 2015.
I love refereeing as a way to get some enjoyable exercise and to support the community game alongside being an RFU first aider for Kidderminster. I am also enjoying my wider role in the Society by assisting with the Bigger Picture initiative to ensure that our membership is supported and everyone is welcomed.
As for the picture, these are either the latest in comfortable comms kits or my wife’s earmuffs…
I took up the whistle in 2015 and haven’t looked back since. I got roped in to running the Young Match Official program with the help of my mentors and joined the Board of Directors a few years ago as Youth Director. I’ll be kicking off the new year by joining the RFU full time as Match Official Developer which is a super exciting opportunity! When I’m not working, running round a rugby pitch, volunteering with YMOs or doing the behind-the-scenes admin stuff, I have a menagerie of creatures to tend to which includes nags, dogs and a little flock of horrors!