Shortage of Borders referees raises alarm

Grant Denholm appeals for more referee's in rugby.
Grant Denholm appeals for more referee's in rugby.

A call has gone out for more people to come forward and take up the whistle by becoming a rugby referee at grass roots level.

This follows a statement issued by the Borders Rugby Refereeing Society in which they claimed they could foresee a situation whereby they could struggle to cover all matches next season.

The Society, now in its 50th year, was set up in 1962/1963, and its purpose is to develop referees and assistant referees from the Border region, allocating officials to club matches in the Borders.

The SRU appoints referees to national leagues (RBS Championship, National and Premiership), and the Society allocates to Semi-Junior, RBS East 1, 2 and 3, and reserve league matches.

Their challenge at the moment is recruiting referees. This season has seen the Society lose a number of referees through injury, retirement and relocation.

In addition, some of their newer referees have progressed well enough to be promoted to the SRU Panel of Match Officials.

The statement said: “Whilst we have enough referees and have managed to allocate officials to games where we’ve been asked, people’s availability - through injury, work and personal commitments means we sometimes struggle to allocate referees.

“In the coming season (2013-14) we anticipate that more of our older referees will retire, and some of our younger referees may progress to the SRU Panel, and we unfortunately foresee a situation where we could struggle to cover all matches next season.”

Now, two local-based officials are lending their weight to the campaign to attract newcomers to take up the whistle/

Bob Nevins from Etal near Berwick, and Grant Denholm from Duns, both support the scheme believing that the future of the game depends on referees coming into the sport at grass roots level.

“It is absolutely vital,” said Bob, who has over 35 years experience in the game.

“ I played until I was about 36, and then thought I needed to put something back into the game.

“I have worked my way through the ranks and have officiated, mainly on the touch, all over the world at places like New York and Bangkok, I am also on the shortlist now for the World Cup in July and I am keeping my fingers crossed for that one.

“Most recently I have ran touch in the Hieneken Cup, at U20 international matches and have become involved with the High Performance Panel.

“It’s a great way to keep fit, but more importantly it helps you remain as part of the sport by being involved once you stop playing.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is we get people coming in at the bottom end as others move up the ladder or retire.”

Grant, who is a mechanic in Duns, has been refereeing for two years, after hanging up his boots as a player.

He mainly officiates at reserve team level, but also in a few National League games.

“I love it,” he said, “but what is perhaps a key point is the fact that you only have to commit to the time you can afford.

“If you only want to referee once a month that’s fine, but if you can do it once a week even better.”

For anyone who would like to become ‘the man in the middle’ the Border referees will be running their next Level One course on Sunday, April 7, at the Greenyards (9.45am - 4pm).

There is no cost for the course and all the learning resources required will be provided.

Anyone interested should contact Iain Heard either by e-mail or phone 07764 178926 for more details.