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Why Referee Abuse Must End

The growth of rugby in the United States is constrained by the number of referees available and interested in performing this role, so as it follows, it is imperative that USA Rugby and NERRS address a barrier and hardship involved in the growth of the referee community and each individual referee.

As the role is one that takes years of practice, study, and commitment, the treatment of referees by the players, coaches, administrators should be supportive of one another that serve the principles of the game and in a respectful manner.

Potential Punishments

Following a report of abuse, NERRS will consider implementing sanctions including some detailed below: ​​

  • Fines for detrimental conduct

  • Additional referee allocations at the club’s expense or Ref Coach fees​

    • Society agrees to allocations but will impose the expenses associated with assigning ARs or a Coach

  • Requiring footage for any future allocation, and if footage isn’t provided, other sanctions may be imposed

  • Requiring adherence to Technical Zones for all matches

  • Recording games as forfeits

    • ​Conference/Match Organizers may also independently record forfeits of matches where abuse occurs

  • Referees have the option to file a police report in the event of any physical or verbal abuse

Applications and Definitions 

World Rugby Law- Referee Abuse:

For the purpose of this policy, abuse is any conduct that falls under World Rugby Law 9, subsections 12,27, and 28, governing verbal and physical abuse, acts contrary to good sportsmanship, and respecting the authority of the Match Official. The application of this policy expressly extends this standard beyond participating players to include coaches, administrators, player reserves, medical personnel, photographers, or other persons allowed inside the playing enclosure or technical zones.

Definition - Match Official:

The center referee, any Assistant Referee (AR), any #4 appointed by the Local Society or Match Organizer, and/or any Field Marshal, charged with policing abuse of the referees.

Definition - Scope of Considered Actions:

Abuse can happen at any time that the Match Official is acting in their duties

  • May include arriving to and leaving the Match location

  • May include conducting personal warm-up and pre-match responsibilities

  • May happen away from the pitch through questioning/impugning honesty/integrity of match officials

Definition - Referee Abuse (includes but not limited to):

  • Any intentional, but nonconsensual, contact with any Match Official.

  • Verbal and nonverbal communication which contains foul or abusive language or which implies or directly threatens physical harm or injury of any sort to any Match Official.

  • Any threat of damage to or damage to a Match Official’s personal property.

  • Sexual or violent gestures and/or kicking or throwing objects in response to the Match Officials’ call, non-call, or other action in officiating the match.

  • Repeated instance of on-field player dissent (as defined in the World Rugby Laws).

  • Repeated questioning of calls during ongoing match play, whether to the center referee or to an AR, by those otherwise permitted to be in the playing enclosure (replacements, coaches, trainers, e.g.).

    • Only individuals who may raise questions with calls are head coaches and captains, and questions should be posed in a respectful manner directly to the center referee

      • A captain may politely speak to a Match Official during a match.

      • A coach may politely speak to a Match Official before and after the match.​

  • After being warned, as provided in this rule, any failure of any player, coach, administrator, medical and support personnel, or fan to immediately leave the playing enclosure or technical zone on the request of any Match Official.

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