Match Official Abuse

I wanted to share an article I read in the latest Kent RFU monthly newsletter and also share my own observations on life at TWRFC.

The article, copied below, is regarding match official abuse. It cites a rather unpleasant increase in its regularity and also details what clubs should be doing to ensure it is removed from the game.

My reflections on our club are similar to this article. I watch all levels from our minis, to youth, to ladies, to men’s rugby. We all love the game, we all love the competition, we all love that winning feeling. As players we play with passion, as parents we feel like we want to be on the pitch helping our children win that breakdown, as supporters we want our team to win and as coaches/managers we feel even more qualified to offer advice to the ref.   

At TWRFC the vast majority of our support is positive, the vast majority of our players are respectful and our coaches are welcoming to the officials. But, I have seen an increase in the ‘advice’ offered to the Ref from the players, I have seen an increase in the volume of criticism offered from the side-lines and I have seen us question too many decisions as coaches.

I want us to collectively address this and play our part in protecting the good values we all admire in the game. The only people speaking to the ref during a game should be the Captains. The only advice offered from the side-lines should be to our own players (hopefully in support). The only person to seek clarification from a referee after a game should be the coach (politely and not while emotions are running high).

We have 16 qualified refs at TWRFC who volunteer their time for the good of our game. Every weekend our adult teams have community refs visiting. Let’s treat them with the respect they deserve and become known as a club that upholds the highest standards towards the match officials. Please take the time to read the article below and rest assured I shall follow Kent’s guidance to the letter of the law. Helping me do this will be our Disciplinary panel chaired by ex-first team captain Mark Huntley.

The Magnificent TWRFC (level 2) Refs are: Mark Brown; Andy Child; Martin Greeves; Richard Hall; Andy Hepner; Derek Jee; Spencer McLean; Tim McCabe; Kevin Parker; Tammy Samuel; Simon Parsons; Michael Stevens; Andre Van Zijl; Martin Croker; Graham Withers; Laurence Taylor.

Many thanks and I am happy to talk to anyone who wishes to discuss this content further.


Mike Rigby



We all welcomed the return of rugby last season, after the pandemic, with everyone involved in the game seeking to return to some form of ‘normality’. The season, of course, had its difficulties, especially with clubs struggling regularly to field teams and with us seeing too many Home or Away Walkovers across the leagues.

Even more disappointing has been too many instances of poor discipline both from players and those off the field, which go against everything that the game of rugby stands for.

Thankfully, cases of foul play are rare. They have been replaced, however, by match official abuse by both players, coaches, and spectators, across all sections of the game (adult, youth and minis). In 2022-23, the adult and youth Discipline Committees dealt with a combined total of 25 cases of ‘Match Official Abuse’.

Without match officials, no game would take place. Why should anyone officiate at a match, if their decisions are always challenged or they are subjected to ‘back chat’ or worse from players, coaches, and spectators alike?

Just as clubs struggle to recruit and retain players and to get their teams out each Saturday, so, too, does the County’s Society of Referees. Just as clubs sometimes have to field players to secure 15 players on the pitch who may not be quite up to the standard required, so, too, does the Society. Referees, like players, learn from the experience of ‘playing up’, and neither always get decisions correct when doing so. Unlike players, who will rarely, if ever, face abuse from their team-mates for their mistakes, referees must deal with it on an increasing frequent basis.

Match official abuse will not be tolerated. Both the Kent County RFU (through its adult and youth Discipline Committees) and the KSRFUR will aim to deal with cases, if proven, as severely as possible.

We ask clubs to do their utmost to ensure that their players, officials, coaches, and spectators treat match officials with respect and tolerance. To this end, we should be grateful if clubs would communicate our expectations widely, and trust that, should clubs come across such poor behaviour, they will use the full force of their own Discipline Committees and Constitutions to weed out the perpetrators and sanction them, including, if necessary, terminating their memberships.

The Executive Committee, working with the Discipline Committee Chairs and the KSRFUR, will monitor the position closely throughout the forthcoming season.

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