Welcome to another edition of referees corner and a very warm welcome to today’s Investec Champions Cup game. The match referee for this game is French born, RFU referee Christophe Ridley. He is ably assisted by Luke Pearce and Gareth Holsgrove with Tom Foley in the TMO box. Previously a student at the University of Gloucestershire,Ridley began refereeing professionally in 2016 after injury whilst playing for Leicester. He has been a regular referee in Premiership Rugby and has also refereed in the European Rugby Champions Cup and EPCR Challenge Cup. He made his debut refereeing in the 2021–22 United Rugby Championship, refereeing the match between Munster and Leinster – he seems keen on these big derbies. For the refereeing enthusiasts amongst you there is a great podcast with Christophe on the Sport Stories Podcast from 2021. A great quote from him in this podcast which I think we can all apply to refereeing and possibly everyday life is “Its perfectly normal to have doubt and perfectly normal to think you have it sussed”. Best of luck today to Christophe and his team.
We’re lucky enough to have one of the best referee coordinators in the business here at Leinster Rugby Referees. I was lucky enough to catch up with Hayley Whyte last week and we talked about how she got into rugby and her current role.
What got you into rugby?
I come from a very sporty family and rugby was always on the TV growing up. I had looked into my local clubs to see if there was a girls team but none at the time did, so when I turned 18 I decided to try the adult teams and I knew someone in Old Belvedere so that is where I ended up.
How long are you refereeing?
I am refereeing 6 years now
You also do some coaching? What got you into that?
Yes, I coach Tallaght Senior Women and they are a great bunch! During my playing days, I picked up a lot of injuries and it just got too much so I decided to step back from playing. I wanted to give back in other ways so coaching seemed to be the next step. I coached down in Old Belvedere for a season or 2, and then moved across to Tallaght last season.
How did you end up as the Leinster Referee Coordinator?
I had just completed my Masters so was in the market for a new full time job. It wasn’t in my field of studies at all so I thought it would be a good stop gap for the time being, but 4 years later and I am still here! It is a great place to work, and the people are great too.
What are the main aspects of your role?
The main aspects are allocating referees to games across the province. We can have up to 200 games in a single weekend so it gets busy and hectic. Outside of appointing referees, I am a point of contact between clubs & schools and the referees.
How does the appointments of referees, touch judges etc work?
Referees are split into Panels (A-F) based on their abilities. Each panel has a ‘panel manager’ who appoints the games in advance, looking at previous reports, tables, availability etc. This is just for adult rugby. The youth rugby is then done by the ‘Area Rep’. There are many volunteers that help out. It certainly isn’t a one person job.
How many games do you appoint to on a weekly / annual basis?
We can appoint up to 200 games in a weekend from U13s all the way up to Senior. At present, we have appointed over 2800 referees this season.
What do you enjoy most about the role?
My favourite part of the role is seeing games taking place around the province, knowing that the referee is there because we appointed them, and that I had a small part to play in that game taking place.
What are the most difficult aspects of the role?
The hardest part is the inability to switch off as rugby doesn’t seem to switch off. It means that I can be ‘on call’ each weekend and evening so getting that balance can be tricky.
What advice do you have for people interested in refereeing?
My advice would be to just give it a go! A lot of referees ‘fell’ into refereeing by chance and turned out to love it. It is a great way to give back to the game, keep up fitness, meet new people and learn the game in even more detail. You have nothing to lose!
Want to get involved?
Referees provide a vital function in servicing all levels of the game. Whether you aspire to referee at the highest level or to referee locally, there is a place for you. There are excellent support structures to develop referees and a thriving social aspect too. Feel free to make contact with the Leinster Rugby Referees at firstname.lastname@example.org If you are interested in becoming a referee get in contact with us through our Facebook, our website www.leinsterrugbyreferees.ie or through twitter @leinsterreferee