The rise of rugby’s new referees

  • Loughborough University RFC currently have 37 qualified referees
  • Find out how to get involved in refereeing here

There is something particularly impressive about Loughborough University’s current 1st XV. As well pushing for places at the top of National One, the team’s entire back-row are also qualified referees.

And it doesn’t stop at the 1st XV. In all, across the entire club, Loughborough has 37 referees who are also full-time students. 

The influx of new referees is part of a push to promote match official courses across the country at all levels. 


“I’ve learned so much about the sport and it’s helped me a great deal on the pitch,” says Matt Macpherson, one of Loughborough University’s 1st XV flankers who is also a level two qualified referee. 

“As a rugby club we try and offer back to the local rugby community and helping with refereeing is a great way to do that.”

Macpherson and his teammates run the University’s intra-mural rugby league, providing referees each week to the matches between 17 different halls of residence. 

“I did my level 2 course over a few weekends. There was a lot of practical tasks as well as testing but we all learnt so much very quickly and it helps that we all have a love for the game.” says Macpherson.


Macpherson says a knowledge of the rules is only half the challenge when officiating.

“You are commanding 30 people around the pitch and you have to take the lead. To do that well you need to have confidence and composure and that’s what the course gives you.”

Jon Taylor, 50, took up refereeing for very different reasons. Despite having never played the sport himself, he had always been a rugby fan.  

“I try and do one big challenge every year. I cycled to Paris, I rowed 100km on the Thames and this year I wanted to give refereeing a try,” says Taylor. 

Taylor used the RFU’s course finder to book himself onto a course in Somerset. “I spent three months obsessively learning the rules before the course in April this year,” says Taylor. 

Despite having a encyclopaedic knowledge of the laws of the game, Taylor says there was a lot more to learn.


“Before you start you don’t think much about things like body language, whistle tone, fitness but these are all massive things in refereeing,” says Taylor. 

After several years of taking on physical challenges around the world, Taylor says refereeing has been the hardest but most rewarding. 

“People don’t realise how physically fit you have to be in order to be a good ref,” says Taylor, who last weekend managed his first fifteen a side match.

“It’s the most enjoyable challenge I’ve done and I can’t wait to carry on developing.”

To find out more about becoming a referee you can see more details here and have a look for courses near you here.