Trust and Respect – by Pat McNally

Posted by SCRRS Website Committee on October 5th, 2009

By Pat McNally

In a former life, I was an IRB-certified trainer that regularly held Level 1 Rugby Referee Certification courses.

It was a great opportunity to introduce beginners to the wonderful world of refereeing rugby and offered me a chance to go back to basics and stay grounded in the fundamentals of officiating.

Before each class, I would begin by writing the words “trust” and “respect” on the board, with a double-headed arrow between the two words.

I wrote trust and respect because it is the basis of all relationships between players and referees.

The double-headed arrow is there to show that it’s a two way street, referees must trust that the players are doing their best to play within the laws and the spirit of the game, and the players need to respect that referees are doing their best to officiate a fast-moving match that is safe and fair.

Trust and respect are very important for referees to earn and keep with teams. They can be built up incrementally over time like a savings account, and can be squandered away in an instant.

Referees build up their account by their actions before, during, and after the match. To earn valuable capital, the referee is obliged to:

  • Show up early and engage both teams before the match
  • Show no favoritism towards either side
  • Start the game on time
  • Communicate clearly, be decisive and treat the players with respect
  • Understand that players compete with heart and passion, and that this game is the most important match in the world on that day
  • When a player does not respect the laws and the spirit of the game, the other players trust that you will handle it appropriately
  • Make yourself available to the teams after the match and follow up with both coaches
  • Be honest with yourself and the teams about your performance

Players and teams need to build their accounts with referees, to ensure the best possible contest that day and maintain the long-term health of our game.

Teams are responsible for:

  • Organizing their match and communicating the details to the appointed referee in a timely manner
  • Arranging for suitable facilities, marking the fields, and setting up the posts in plenty of time for the match
  • Having all the necessary paperwork prepared before the match so everyone can focus their time and energy
    on the game
  • Communicating any concerns before the match to the referee and incorporating the referee’s replies into their game plan
  • Cooperating with the referee during the match in the interest of a fair contest
  • Understanding that laws, although they may be written down, are open to interpretation. And referees, like players, can make mistakes

A successful rugby match is a two way street, with both the referee and the players having obligations and responsibilities. Each party has a duty to perform in order to ensure a mutually satisfactory relationship.

Referees can ruin their standing through arrogance and a disregard for the aims and efforts of the players.

Teams can jeopardize their account by being disorganized and indifferent to what a referee goes through in
preparation. And both have so much to gain by recognizing what each is trying to achieve.

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