Youth Referees

Press release from 10.02.15


What started 2 years ago as post match chat between youth coaches from Percy Park, Novos and Ponteland has led to the development of the youth referee development programme understood to be the first of its kind within all of the RFU Constituent Bodies.

Paul Minto, one of the coaches involved in the original discussion and the person leading the pathway team explains “As coaches of lads going into their GCSE year we wanted to be able to give them something extra to help towards their grades but also into the future have something to differentiate them for college applications etc – from there and with a lot of help from Northumberland County, Northumberland Referees Society & Newcastle Falcons we are at a point today where we have a one of a kind programme which was recently recognised by the RFU President at the annual Northumberland Referees Dinner.”

The initial group of 16 players from the 3 clubs undertook what was the RFU Young Officials Award in October 2013 and followed that up with refereeing at club festivals, county festivals and last season’s Landrover Cup hosted by Newcastle Falcons.

This season they have continued to build on their experience with training courses delivered by the Referees Society Training Officer Simon O’Neil and by undertaking their Stage 2 “Refereeing the 15 a side game” course last weekend at Newcastle Falcons.

Gavin Beasley from the Falcon’s Community Foundation team is delighted that the Falcons have been able to support the initiative saying "this is a great programme that NRU are piloting. With the number of junior referees on the course, it shows the willingness of both male and female to pick up the whistle and The Falcons Community Foundation support the programme fully, and are looking forward to see the future of refereeing in action. With the junior festivals we run here at Newcastle Falcons this provides a great opportunity for the newly qualified referees to gain experience within short matches with a mentors on the side lines, helping them through the day.”

The original 16 have been supplemented by 30 more young referees who undertook their Stage 1 course in the autumn prior to refereeing schools festivals organised by the RFU in Northumberland.

Already the next group are lined up to follow on behind them as well through Dave Reed and his team.

The aim is simple according to Paul and Lee Weatherley who is the County Chair of Youth Rugby. “The intention going forward is to keep this programme rolling year on year to continue to develop referees to help out at all levels within clubs and also more widely within the county if they want to. The Referees Society is providing support with respect to mentoring all the new referees to help them achieve their targets.

We are already seeing an increased interest in junior rugby as we head into World Cup year and the interest around Newcastle hosting matches at St James Park. It is clear we will need more qualified referees to enhance everyone’s playing experience at all levels from U6 to senior rugby and these boys and girls have committed to supporting that growth. The programme and its ongoing success will be a cornerstone of NRU RWC2015 legacy plans”.

Given that one Northumberland Referee has already experienced the highs of officiating at a Rugby World Cup, whose to say another one won’t get a similar opportunity in the future. The pathway is a good place to start in developing that opportunity.