Frequently Asked Questions by Referees
As a new referee, the answers to the following questions will help you understand how the Society works.  For those of you who have been with us for a while, you will hopefully find the answers useful if you want to check something that has escaped your mind! If you still have unanswered questions or feel we have not covered something important, please get in touch through our contact page.
  • How do I get appointed to games by the Society?

    The Appointments Policy explains how referees are appointed to games. Appointments are made using the most up-to-date information on availability as supplied by each referee. Obviously, there are often changes to accommodate (e.g. cancelled and rearranged games, new fixtures, referee unavailability etc.), so re-appointments can be made up to, and including, the morning before the game in the afternoon.

    You can see your appointments on the online application “Who’s the Ref” (WTR), which will also send you notifications by email.

    Making appointments involves the complex task of matching the needs of games to the ability, potential and ambition of the available referees. Those involved in appointing will look at a number of factors (e.g. the particular challenges of the games) as well as the basics i.e. the levels of the referees and the games. For example, a local derby may merit a more experienced, higher level referee or may be the opportunity for a newer referee with potential to show his ability and mettle!

    They are also trying to “localise” appointments as far as possible, to cut down on travel for referees and expenses for clubs. However, the higher your level, the more likely you may need to travel further.

    Being known by the Appointments Secretaries as reliable and flexible will undoubtedly count in your favour when re-appointments are being made and good opportunities arise.

    Every game needs a match official and no game should be beneath the dignity of any referee. Appointments Secretaries do not like “prima donnas”. It is important that you build a reputation as a “go anywhere, do anything” referee.

    Re-appointments Secretaries are available to help with problems. They are people who also have their own lives to live and although they are flexible, forgiving and calm under pressure, please abide by the rules on contact as set out in the Society handbook.

    The grading system (see “How do I get graded?”) is there to help ensure that referees get appropriate games that they will enjoy refereeing. The ambitions and abilities of referees will vary but the Society values all its referees, whatever their level.

    More information about the appointments process is given below:

    • Fixtures start to be published from as early as June for the forthcoming season. You will be asked to record your availability in WTR by the beginning of July for pre-season and September games. You can also record in WTR any comments about your availability for a particular month and also comments of a more general nature.
    • During the season, you must keep your availability up to date on WTR. Appointments are made in six-week blocks, a minimum of two weeks in advance (longer in the case of midweek appointments). The appointments team will only use WTR as the accurate statement of your availability. Obviously your availability may change, either in a planned (e.g., holidays, business commitments) or an unplanned way (e.g., injury, sickness); in all cases it is important that you update your availability immediately. If you already have an appointed game, see below. Early notification saves the Re-appointment Secretaries and club contacts a good deal of valuable time and unnecessary 'phone calls.
    The Re-appointments Secretaries will use the principle that you are available up to 12 noon on Saturdays and Sundays unless they are advised to the contrary; so please help them to get you the right appointments by keeping them informed. It is therefore important that you check your appointments late in the week for weekend appointments, as changes may have to be made for reasons beyond the Appointments Team’s control.
    If you have already been appointed to a game and become unavailable, then let the club contact know as well as the Re-appointments Secretary (shown weekly on the website); similarly, if you are moved from a game that has already been confirmed, then let the club contact know to ensure that games are not left without referees.
    Late "cry-offs" are a major headache for everybody involved in the appointments process, so if you have to cry-off because of injury, try to make the decision as soon as possible to give the Appointments Secretaries sufficient time to make the necessary alterations. It is also important to note that assessors and coaches are appointed to observe referees and therefore last minute cry-offs might jeopardise an observation on your game. (Please note that cry-offs are monitored for data analysis.)
    • Normally, the Club Contact should have confirmed with you early in the week of the game. If you do not receive confirmation, please try to contact them; you do not want to waste your time turning up for a game that doesn't happen. If you cannot make contact, speak to the Re-appointments Secretary who will advise on the best course of action and who will then be "in the loop" to re-appoint you should the game be cancelled.
    • Each game to which you are appointed will appear on WTR and the notification will include details of the type of game (league, friendly, etc.). It is likely that for some of the days you are available, there will be no fixture showing against your name. This means that you are on stand-by; however, this does not mean that you will be without a game. The Appointment Secretaries try to appoint equitably and aim for each referee to have two appointments and two “stand-bys” in a four-week period. Past records show that some 96% of available referees on any particular Saturday were given a match.
    • When you are on stand-by you will usually get an appointment closer to the date through the reappointments process; often these games are of good quality. For such appointments you will normally be contacted directly by the club contact (usually during the week of the match), who will advise you that the re-appointments secretary has advised him/her of your availability.
    • Reappointments continue to be made, sometimes as late as the morning of a match due to new fixtures and late changes. Remember that if you are on stand-by you still are assumed to be available to be allocated to a game up to 12 noon on the day.
    If you have to withdraw from stand-by, let the Appointments Secretary know immediately, if possible with a reason, to assist in data analysis, don't leave it until the last minute or when you are contacted by the club - this just causes unnecessary problems and additional work for all concerned.
    • If you have not been contacted to referee a game during a week that you are on standby, then it does no harm to politely remind the Re-appointments Secretary that you are looking for a game, perhaps early on the Friday evening. There is a slim chance that you will have been mistakenly overlooked and a gentle reminder always helps.

  • How do I get graded?

    • After successfully completing your Entry Level Referee Award (ELRA) 2 course and joining the Society you will normally be given the Society entry-level grade (U – unclassified) until you have been seen by an experienced observer. After discussion with the grade coordinator and further observations you may be given a provisional grade (L11). This will be reviewed at the next Officials’ Performance Committee (OPC) meeting that normally meets at least three times a year, (in November, February and May).
    • The OPC implements the Society’s Grading Policy. The review will be based on the reports made by Level Coordinators who scrutinise reports from any advisers who have seen you referee and from any club report cards received.
    • The Society will do all it can to maximise the number of referees who are watched by match observers. It is worth remembering that promotion can be given at any time and is not always dependent on the next OPC meeting. Your Level Coordinator can recommend a provisional promotion and discuss this with the Chair of OPC. This would then be ratified at the next OPC meeting. However, if you feel you are not being watched enough, speak to your Level Co-ordinator about it.
    • As you progress through the levels, you may well find that you are asked to go on ‘Exchange’. This means travelling with other referees to another Society to do games in its region. This is a real development opportunity; you will visit new clubs, be assessed by advisers you do not know and generally soak up the atmosphere of being in another part of the “rugby” country. “Exchange” advisers’ reports may be particularly important in determining grading and are essential for those aspiring to higher levels of refereeing at a regional/national level.
    • Referees are graded to determine the level of game that the Society deems them competent to referee. The Society has a duty of care in doing this and will not expose you by giving you too demanding a game. We all start at the bottom. Players at higher Levels are faster, fitter, more skilful and more “professional”. The level of a team is determined by its league level.
    • The following table relates referee grades to the level of competence and commitment required.

    Table 1: Level of Game equated to referee Grades

    Manchester Levels Criteria to maintain grade
    Joining Society Complete successfully stages 1 and 2 of Entry Level Referee Award (ELRA) and stage 3 via self-assessment.
    Society 11 to 9 Adviser/assessor reports that demonstrate ability to referee at their level. Completed at least two Continuous Referee Development Award (CRDA) modules per season through attendance at society meetings.
    Society 8 to 6 Willingness to fulfil appointments at any level on a regular basis. Be prepared to engage in self-assessment processes and submit reports to the Grading Committee. At least one annual adviser/assessor report that demonstrates the ability to referee at current level. Completed at least two CRDA modules per season through attendance at society meetings. Demonstrate commitment to maintaining physical and mental fitness in order to referee at their level.
    Federation Level 6 Be prepared to travel throughout the Federation to referee. Attend Development Squad Meetings. Undertake appropriate fitness tests. Complete a Personal Development Programme (PD). Work with appointed referee coaches and assessors. Make progress over time as judged be assessment reports and referee coach periodic summaries.
    Group Level 5 Be prepared to travel throughout the country to referee. Attend North Group Conferences and training days as determined by the North Group Committee. Pass the Assistant Referee (AR) examination / attend AR seminars. Undertake appropriate fitness tests. Complete a Personal Development Plan. Work with appointed referee coaches and assessors. Make progress over time as judged by assessment reports and referee coach periodic summaries. Assist with feedback on Group ARs

  • How are games graded?

    • The level of games run from 1 -15. Levels 1 - 4 are covered by the National Panel of Referees and administered by the RFU, 5 (North) by the Northern Group, 6 by either the North West Federation or the Society, 7 to 11 normally by the Society and, normally, 12 -15 by the Local Referee Associations. Game and Team Levels are shown on WTR.
    • Those referees with ambition and the requisite talent will be nominated by the Society to the North West Federation Squad. From here, some may be accepted by the North (Level5) Group. It is the North Group that nominates referees to the National Panel.
    • The Society needs referees at all levels. Training and Development opportunities are designed for referees of all levels (see the Handbook and website for details).

  • What do I do when I am appointed to a game?

    This section provides basic information on how to deal with each game.

    On receiving confirmation by the home club:

    • Expect the fixture to be confirmed early in the week of a weekend fixture by the home club representative. If the club have not confirmed by the Wednesday evening, then ring the contact listed in the Handbook or on WTR.
    • Obtain clear directions to the ground; check there are no road-works or other special events on the day; check normal travel time.
    • Confirm the two teams, their colours and the kick-off time.
    • WTR will state the type of match. If it is a league match, then check the clubs’ websites to see when they played before and their respective results and positions in the league – it is helpful background information. However, do not assume that a top club against one towards the bottom will be one-sided.
    • If it is a cup match, then it is worth checking if the teams have played before.
    • Make sure you have the club’s and its contact’s phone numbers in case you have a last minute problem.

    What should I bring to the match?

    • Two Society shirts (different/contrasting to the clubs’ colours).
    • Two pairs of shorts, matching socks and a pair of boots.
    • Tracksuit for pre-match and warming up.
    • Supply of score cards; means of recording any yellow or red cards or serious injury/incident all in a waterproof container (e.g., referee’s wallet).
    • Red and yellow cards.
    • Two each of whistle, watch, pen/pencil, (plus one pencil sharpener?).
    • Remember to secure your valuables, but keep a coin for the toss-up.
    • Stock of ‘Club Report Cards’.

    Pre-match routine:

    • Arrive at least one hour before kick-off time, having allowed plenty of time for the journey.
    • Locate changing area, drop off kit and introduce yourself to the home captain or officials.
    • Accept the hospitality of a drink if offered, but don’t look too much at home when the away side arrives!
    • Confirm captain’s name and locate home and away changing rooms.
    • In doing so, confirm team colours, agree a mutually acceptable programme of events for checking boots and protective clothing, any player briefing you will give, which pitch you are on, the nature of medical back-up and the time for captains to toss up.
    • Change into kit and track suit.
    • As part of your warm up, inspect the playing area paying particular attention to post protection, correct placing of flags and any debris on the pitch, i.e. check it is safe. Advise someone (captain, official) if there is anything that needs to be removed, especially animal fouling.
    • Consider any local issues such as overhanging trees, ‘dodgy’ or unclear markings and inform captains how you will play it.
    • Try to complete all the above as early as you can, leaving time for a thorough warm-up before the game.
    • The content of the briefing at the toss is a matter of personal preference, but be brief, don’t lecture. Key areas are the toss (Home captain tosses, away calls), touch judges, medical cover, any front row cover (if injury, red or yellow card leaves no competent front row, go to ‘uncontested’ scrums), time to kick-off and the timing of the door knocks (usually five minutes to kick-off and then we go three minutes later, away side first).
    • Final reminder (to yourself) of your objectives/priorities, some visualisation (?), muscle stretch, before politely asking each team to take the field.

    During the match:

    • Keep time and score (write down kick-off real time).
    • Accurately record yellow cards so that you know when ten minutes playing time has elapsed.
    • For a yellow card you need the time, offence, score and player’s number. At this stage you do not need the player’s name
    • Similarly for red cards, you do not need the player’s name as the club is obliged to give you that information after the game. It is more effective to order the player from the field of play as quickly as possible because it reduces the possibility of confrontation.
    • If you send a player off, fill in a Red Card Report form.
    • Within 24 hours, email it to and the relevant RFU disciplinary secretary – see also the Handbook.
    • Advice can be given by your mentor.

    Post-match routine:

    • Applaud the players off the pitch.
    • Just appear at the changing room door of each team, thank them for the game and move on.
    • In the clubhouse, try and talk to players, without appearing to seek compliments, you can learn a lot from some of them
    • Do not argue with players, coaches or officials. If issues can be resolved amicably, and without major argument, then do so. Be calm and diplomatic at all times.
    • If a match observer is present, then agree when and where you will meet for the de-brief. Do not argue with the adviser - any major differences of opinion are best referred to your Level Co-ordinator.
    • If you wish, ask the captains to fill in a Club Report Card for you, get it back and send it in yourself. The feedback on your cards contributes to Level Co-ordinator data.
    • Do not discuss any sending-off incident with anyone after the game, but accept a sent-off player’s apologies if offered; accept it with thanks and note it in your report. Do not express any opinion or, even worse, state things like, “perhaps I got it wrong”. At most, reiterate what you saw and why the player was sent off. If pressed further, then say ‘I’m sorry, but I’m not discussing it any further, my report will cover the facts’.
    • You should be offered your expenses; if not, then approach the home captain or official. Calculate your expenses accurately using the current pence per mile rate.
    • Thank the home club captain/officials for their hospitality.
    • At home, complete the Whistlers’ Trophy form.
    • If you feel that you had a poor game (and we all do, at some point), please don’t write off your refereeing career. Like players, referees need to get back on track for the next game. Talk it over with any of the following: your Level Coordinator, Training and Development Coordinator, other Society Officer (e.g., Hon Sec., Chairman) or anybody else whose opinions and judgement you respect and trust. If it comes up in the clubhouse, see Q6 below.

    Child Protection: Refereeing games for the under 19 age group and younger:

    Safeguarding the welfare of our young players is paramount. Coaches, referees and volunteers have a moral and possibly a legal responsibility to provide the highest possible standard of care when we welcome young people into the game of Rugby Union.
    • The RFU/RFUW publish guidance the “Child and Young Player Protection Policy” for “Under 19” games; common sense advice for referees is as follows:

    DO NOT:
    • Change in the same room as a youth team
    • Shower with a youth team
    • Allow a child/youth into your changing room without another adult being present
    • Check boots, etc., in the changing room without another adult being present
    • Administer first aid unless properly trained


    • Challenge anyone taking a child if it appears that the child does not want to go
    • Report any incident to the Society’s Hon. Secretary if you become concerned over the way any child is being treated by a coach, parent or other person
    • Remember that your overriding thought must be for the protection of the child.

    Finally, with regard to refereeing each game, please ensure you read the Handbook section on “Events that must be reported to the Society” and know what information you need to have. This will support you if there is a serious injury in a game you are refereeing or if you have to send someone off.

  • What if I am offered non-Society games?

    • Once you are known as a Society referee you will receive invitations to referee games from a number of sources both within and outside your own club. These are normally games, e.g., junior games on Sundays, to which the Society does not normally appoint referees. The Society’s Appointments Policy allows for clubs to request particular referees for ‘special’, i.e. non-league or cup, matches. This should be done through the appropriate Appointments Secretary who will keep a note of the request.
    • Obviously you may or may not want to accept these games but if you do please let the Society know by advising the Re-appointment Secretary.

  • How can I improve as a referee within the Society?

    Any referee who considers that he/she cannot improve is fooling him/herself and doing the players and the game a disservice. The main types of support come in three main forms (not entirely discrete): self, other people and other resources.

    • Ultimately, only one person can improve your refereeing and that’s you. Here are some possible methods for doing it. They obviously overlap with other people and resources.
    • Before the game, think about what went well and not so well in your last game. Set a couple of objectives for yourself for the next game (e.g., to clearly and concisely explain why the whistle went). You might commit them to paper as an aide memoire for when you arrive at the game. Even consider placing it in your score card, or written on the inside of one wrist.
    • During the game, split it up into ten/fifteen/twenty minute sections. When there is ‘down time’ ask yourself what ‘challenges’ the game is giving you, where are the problem areas and what should you do about them? Particularly do this at half time.
    • After the game, spend a couple of minutes thinking about your initial thoughts on what went well, what not so well? How did you do on your own objectives? Did you manage to analyse and do something about the ‘challenges’ you thought the game was giving you?
    • Over time, you might develop longer term planning objectives for yourself which span, e.g. half a season.

    Other people
    • Ensure you are allocated a ‘Buddy’ - another Society member who will take responsibility for be-friending you for the initial period of your membership and help you solve any problems you might have (we all do!!)
    • Match Observers - Assessors/Advisers/Coaches
    • Level Co-ordinators
    • Each referee level has a level co-ordinator. His role is to take overall responsibility for all the referees in his level and to report their progress to each OPC. You should get to know him, talk to him and let him know what your aims are in refereeing (we can’t all get to the top, and many of us do a decent job within the Society for many years). If you are not being advised, let him know. Talk to him a few days before the OPC meets.

    Asking the captains (or coaches) to fill in a Referee Report card can be of great help to you, especially to identify trends and areas you might usefully focus on. You might like to start a short conversation to further clarify their feedback, but don’t get drawn into lengthy debates or arguments. Always remember to thank them for their reports.

    Similarly with spectators who may approach you in the clubhouse after the match; be courteous but do not feel under any obligation to justify any decision you made. If someone is openly hostile, try to withdraw yourself from the conversation and talk to others. Saying something like “thanks for the comment, I’ll bear it in mind” might help bring the conversation to an end.

    In extreme cases you might feel that the person’s behaviour to you is not acceptable, in which case, upon careful reflection, you might decide to file a Referee Abuse report.

    Do make yourself familiar with the schedule of meetings, which are specifically designed to help and support you. Besides the formal topics covered there is always a good opportunity to talk informally to other referees.

    Other resources:
    • Videos of games (some clubs video games, if this is the case, ask if you might receive a copy/offer to pay), TV games, live games. Bear in mind things like the level of the game (there are both similarities and differences between your game and, for example, the Premiership).
    • Some useful websites include:;;;;
    • “Better Rugby refereeing”, Ed Morrison and Derek Robinson (ISBN 9780955590108), usually available through RFU website, a must for all referees.
    • Club Coaching courses; it’s amazing that more referees don’t go on these!!
    • Training with a club

  • Where do I go for up to date information about the Society?

    The Society Web Site ( is the main source for up-to-date information including notice of meetings, important law changes and guidelines. You should check it at least once a week and WTR more frequently for your appointments.

  • How does the Society communicate with me?

    The main methods are:

    • Through its website (
    • Society Handbook, issued annually with important information in it.
    • A programme of meetings as announced on its website, where refereeing topics, Law questions and Society business are discussed.

  • How is the Society organised and run?

    This section briefly describes how the M&DRURS is structured. More detail is available in the Handbook and in the Society rules. There are a number of committees and office holders, many of whom are elected at the AGM.

    The Executive Committee (EC) has overall responsibility for the Society’s affairs, including its finances and its relationships with other bodies, including the RFU, the North West Federation of Rugby Referees’ Societies, Counties and the clubs, universities and schools that we serve. It sets the overall strategy of the Society and the annual Action Plan, where specific objectives are set.

    The EC members are a supported by numerous officers who are responsible for specific tasks or areas of the Society’s activities.

    It is worth noting in passing that all EC members and officers are volunteers; offers to help will always be very much welcomed as there is always plenty of work to do!

    The Officials’ Performance Committee’s (OPC) key function is the grading of referees. Its remit also covers referee training and development.

    The Appointments Committee is responsible for allocating referees to games taking into account a wide range of factors.

    The Administration Committee, chaired by the Honorary Secretary, is responsible for membership records, discipline, mail-outs, the Handbook, the website and many other essential matters to keep the whole Society “ticking over”. Many Society Officers report to this committee.

    The Finance Committee is responsible for the oversight of all the Society’s income and expenditure and for the preparation of annual financial statements.

  • Who are my Key Contacts?

    The following table summarises who you should contact in the first instance for:

    Subject Contact
    Any matter Your Buddy
    New members Recruitment Officer
    Law questions / Competition rules / Training & Development / Drafting a sending of report Training & Development Coordinator
    Grading (and being advised) Your Level Co-ordinator
    Forms / Sending off / Serious Injury / Uncontested scrums Honorary Secretary
    Availability Appointments and Re-Appointments Secretaries