The Occurrence of Referee Abuse in Rugby Union: Evidence and Measures Through an Online Survey

Mike Rayner, Tom Webb & Hayley Webb

Year: 2016 Volume: 21 Issue: d

Pages: 66-81

Abstract: Many national governing bodies are experiencing difficulties retaining referees at the grass roots level, especially young referees (Warner, Tingle & Kellett, 2013). Abuse and aggression from players and spectators are the most commonly given reasons for referees leaving. Without consideration of the development, nurturing and management needs of the referee there could be a decline in the participation numbers within the sport.  This research paper used an online questionnaire to explore the levels of abuse that rugby union referees are subjected to in the counties of Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset and Hampshire. The results indicated that referees from various levels on the Rugby Football Union’s referee continuum were subjected to a significant level of abuse. The sources of this abuse ranged from the players, coaches and spectators.  Furthermore, the research illustrates that the referees believe that there has been an erosion of the ‘core values’ of rugby union specifically indicating a decline in the enjoyment factor of officiating within rugby union and its effect on the retention of referees.