The Ulster Society of Rugby Football Referees are holding a recruitment drive on Saturday 18th August at Newforge Country Club, Belfast. Registration is at 9:30 am for a 10:00 am start and the introductory course is expected to run to 4:00 pm. 

The course is open to anyone over 18 years of age, male or female, and no previous experience of rugby or refereeing is required. 

As someone who spent a few Fridays and Saturdays trying to get referees for youth club games I cannot stress how important the role of the referee is for the continuing development of the game in our province and further afield.

It’s vitally important for youth players to get a consistent message from the man, or woman, in the middle and if the expanding club youth game is going to continue to flourish then more referees are required to meet the ever growing demand. 

Our reporter, Vicky Irwin, caught up with three of the referees at the recent age grade matches between Ulster Club and Schools teams against their counterparts from Ontario Rugby to find out how they got involved with refereeing and, more importantly, if they are enjoying the experience.

Chris Elliott

How did you get into refereeing?

I used to play for Grosvenor RFC up until a few years ago and I had got into refereeing in school with Campbell College. Surprisingly it’s quite addictive and I really enjoyed it on a Saturday morning.

A course then came up, similar to the one next week, and I thought I should just go for it. I have been thinking about it for the last few years on whether to do it or not and I’m really glad I did.

What would you recommend about becoming a referee?

Absolutely go for it, as a newcomer, I’ve found it like a close-knit family. I have only been a member of the society for a year and I absolutely love it.

I’ve made some really good friends and, believe it or not, even us refs enjoy a party around Christmas. 

There is fantastic coaching, led by PRO14 referee David Wilkinson. We have meetings once a month to chat about any issues that have came into our game;  who doesn’t  love a good chat about rucks and stuff? 🙂 

Do you have ambitions within refereeing

Yes 100%, basically your refereeing journey is as long as you want to make it. 

I have only been doing this a year and I have already refereed a Schools Cup quarterfinal game, which was a huge honour for me. The hard work you put in off the pitch really shows on the pitch and you can go as far as you want.

It’s possible to progress quickly and the Society are very supportive. 

Keane Davison

How did you get into refereeing?

I played rugby up until school boy level, and normally the standard course is you play rugby until you cant play anymore and then you start refereeing, but I had family relations that were involved in the refereeing society and I just thought I’d give it a go whenever I went to uni.

I have been refereeing now for 3 seasons and haven’t looked back since. I do miss playing rugby but I think the opportunities are much greater with refereeing.

What would you recommend about becoming a referee?

From my perspective, I highly recommend it to younger people; to me when I was playing I thought I could do a better job than them.  😆 

I would recommend it to anyone, even if you aren’t injured or retired, to stay in the game and get new opportunities to travel etc. within a really friendly society which is full of great people.

Peter Doherty

How did you get into refereeing?

I didn’t come from a rugby background and a friend of mine knew I was keen on rugby going through school and when he saw a flier on a ref’s course a couple of years ago he asked me if I was keen on going along with him.

What would you recommend about becoming a referee?

Refereeing is a great way to stay fit and it’s a good way to stay in touch with the game if you are an ex player and recently retired.

It’s also a great way of making new friends in a great society.

Do you get much travelling?

At provincial level we can be anywhere from Ballyshannon in Donegal, to Cavan and everywhere in between. As you move up the ranks the opportunities for travel expand greatly. 


So there you have it three insights into the world of refereeing. All different routes into the discipline but it’s worth noting that all three highlight the social aspects of the society. The support within the group is great. 

If that has whetted your appetite and you want to find out more why not drop the contact Dan Carson (refereeing@ulsterrugby.com) with your name and number to book your place on Saturday introductory course. 

#SUFTUM