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 guides the process of appointing referees to matches. Appointments are made by the Appointments Team, which is led by the Chairman of Appointments and includes the Appointments Secretaries for Saturday, Sunday and Mid-week fixtures and the corresponding Re-appointment Secretaries who deal with changes on a weekly duty rota.

    The Team will use the most up-to-date information on availability as stored on the online application “Who’s the Ref” (WTR) and 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 of the game.

    Please read the document Appointments and WTR - Briefing for Referees and Clubs as it gives important details about the appointments process; the following points are also worth knowing and/or emphasising:

    • To contact the (Re-) Appointment Secretaries by email please use and include the appropriate Secretary’s name in the subject field.
    • The names of the current duty Re-appointments Secretaries are published on the Society website homepage.
    • Please refer to the Handbook (page 5) for the office hours of the Secretaries should you need to contact them by phone. The names of all the secretaries are also listed on this page.
    • On joining the Society you will be given access to WTR where your contact details, availability and other relevant information about you (e.g. your grade) are stored.
    • 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 (approximately) six-week appointment periods, a minimum of two weeks in advance. Each period has a cut-off date by which time you are asked to set your availability for the respective period. Cut-off dates are published in the Handbook and announced on the website.
    • You will be notified of all your appointments by system emails (and sometimes by SMS messages) from WTR. You are expected to accept your appointments immediately after notification and not to decline appointments unless you have to subsequently cry-off.
    • If you wish to officiate at matches involving players under 18 years old, then from the beginning of the 2020/21 season you must have undertaken a RFU Disclosure and Barring Service check. For details, please see the Safeguarding announcement and documents on the website.
    • It is likely that for some of the days you are available, there will be initially no fixture showing for you in WTR. This means that you are on stand-by; however, it does not necessarily follow that you will be without a game. The Appointments Secretaries try to put referees on stand-by equitably. Over recent seasons at least 90% of available referees on any particular Saturday were given a match.
    • When you are on stand-by you will usually get an appointment close to the date of the match through the re-appointments process; often these games are of good quality.
    • 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 essential that you update your availability immediately. Early notification will save the (Re-) Appointments Secretaries and club contacts a good deal of time.
    If you become unavailable after a cut-off date, irrespective of whether or not you have an appointment for the day(s) concerned, then you must let the relevant Appointments Secretary (Re-appointments Secretary if within seven days of the match) know immediately by email; it would be courteous to also let the club contact know if you are no longer able to fulfil an appointment.
    If you have not been notified of an appointment within a few days of the day for which you are on standby, then it does no harm to politely remind the duty Re-appointments Secretary that you are looking for a game.
    Late "cry-offs" are a major problem for everybody involved in the appointments process. So if you have to cry-off because of injury etc., 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.
    The Re-appointments Secretaries will use the principle tht you are available up to a few hours before kick-off unless they are advised to the contrary; so please help them to get you appointments by keeping them informed.
    • Normally, the Club Contact should have confirmed their club’s match with you four to five days before the fixture. If you do not receive confirmation, please try to contact them. You do not want to waste your time turning up for a match that has been cancelled. If you cannot make contact, speak to the duty 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.
    • 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 fixtures) as well as the basics i.e. the levels of the referees and the games. For example, a local derby may merit an experienced, higher level referee or give an opportunity for a newer referee with potential to show his/her ability and mettle!
    • The Team is 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.

  • How do I get graded?

    • The grading system exists to help ensure that referees are appointed to matches that they are competent to referee and will enjoy. The ambitions and abilities of referees will vary, but the Society values all its referees, whatever their level.
    • After successfully completing the England Rugby Referee Award (ERRA) course and joining the Society you will normally be given the grade “P” (Provisional) until you have been seen by an experienced referee assessor.
    • After discussion with the level coordinator and further observations you may be given the entry-level grade Level 11. (The Society’s mandate covers levels 11 to 6; for each level there is at least one Level Co-ordinator – their names are in the handbook.) This initial grading will be reviewed at the next Grading Committee meeting that normally takes place in November and May with a “virtual” meeting in February.
    • The Grading Committee makes decisions on the levels to which referees are to be assigned. Your grading will be based on the recommendations made by Level Coordinators who scrutinise reports from the assessors who have seen you referee and any club report cards received.
    • The Society will do all it can to maximise the number of referees who are watched by assessors. Promotion can be given at any time and is not always dependent on a Grading Committee meeting. Your Level Coordinator can recommend a provisional promotion and discuss this with the Chairman of Grading. This would then be ratified at the next Grading Committee meeting. However, if you feel you are not being watched enough, speak to your Level Co-ordinator.
    • 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 watched by assessors you do not know and soak up the atmosphere of being in another part of the “rugby” country. Assessors’ reports from exchanges may be particularly important in determining grading and are essential for those aspiring to higher levels of refereeing at a regional/national level.
    • The table below shows the criteria that usually have to be met to maintain the grading levels.
    • 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 strive to 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 the England Rugby Referee Award (ERRA) course.
    • Made a member of the Society.
    Society 11 to 9 • Assessor reports that demonstrate ability to referee at the graded level.
    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 information to the Grading Committee.
    • At least one annual assessor report that demonstrates the ability to referee at current level.
    • Demonstrate commitment to maintaining physical and mental fitness in order to referee at current level. (To attain or remain at level 7 or above referees have to pass a fitness test.)
    Federation Level 6 • Be prepared to travel throughout the Federation to referee and undertake exchange appointments.
    • Attend Development Squad meetings.
    • Undertake and pass appropriate fitness tests.
    • Work with appointed referee coaches and assessors.
    • Make progress over time as judged by assessment reports and referee coaches’ 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 and pass 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 coaches’ periodic summaries.
    • Assist with feedback on Group ARs.

  • How are matches graded?

    • The level of matches 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, usually, 12 -15 by the Local Referee Associations. Competition and Team Levels are shown on WTR and in the Handbook.
    • Those referees with ambition and the requisite talent will be nominated by the Society to the North West Federation Development Squad. From here, some may be accepted by the North (Level 5) 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 should I do before and on match day?

    The following Preferred Options papers are particularly relevant for planning your day:
    PO#2 - Maintenance and Management of Technical Areas
    PO#3 - Preparation and Briefing
    PO#10 - Characteristics of a Manchester Society Referee

    Other important points include:

    • If you are refereeing a match involving players under the age of 18, make sure you are familiar and comply with the Society’s Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy and Protocol. (From the beginning of season 2020/21, only those referees who have undertaken a Disclosure and Debarring Service (DBS) check will be appointed to matches for players under the age of 18.)

    • If as a male referee you are refereeing a women’s match, make sure that there are arrangements in place for you to change and shower separately from the teams; similarly if you are a female referee at a men’s match.

    • If an assessor watched you, then agree when and where you will meet for the debrief meeting. Do not argue with him/her - any major differences of opinion are best referred to your Level Co-ordinator.

    • After the match ask the captains to fill in a Club Report Card (cards available from the Secretary at Society meetings) for you, get it back and send it in yourself. Always remember to thank them for their reports. The feedback on your cards will be reviewed by your Level Co-ordinator.

    • Calculate your expenses as described in the Handbook using the pence per mile rate agreed at the most recent AGM. (Please note that false and exaggerated claims are unacceptable; at best such practice casts a shadow on the claimant and the Society and at worst may be fraudulent and may lead to disciplinary action.)

    • At home, complete the referees’ online “Post-match Questionnaire” form at:

    • 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, Chairman Training and Development, other Society Officer or anybody else whose opinions and judgement you respect and trust.

    • Finally, and importantly, with regard to refereeing each match, 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 help you if there is a serious injury in a game you are refereeing, you suffered personal abuse or if you sent someone off.

  • What if I am offered non-Society games?

    • Once you are known as a Society referee you may receive invitations to referee matches from both within and outside your own club. These are usually matches to which the Society does not normally appoint referees (e.g. matches on a Sunday for under 16s and younger).
    • 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 invitations but if you do, please let the Society know by advising the duty Re-appointments 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 “resources”.

    Self - 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, what are the problem areas and what should you do about them?”; consider doing this particularly at half-time.
    • After the game, spend a couple of minutes on your initial thoughts on what went well and 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 e.g. for half a season.

    Other people:
    • The Induction Officer (new referees), assessors and (referee) coaches
    • Your fellow referees
    • Level Co-ordinators - each referee level has a level co-ordinator whose role is to take overall responsibility for all the referees at that level. This involves reporting on your progress at Grading Committee meetings. 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 assessed, let him know. Talk to him a few days before the Grading Committee meets.
    • Team captains and club coaches and officials; but don’t get drawn into lengthy debates or arguments.

    • Society meetings – these are specifically designed to help and support you. Besides the formal topics covered there is always a good opportunity to talk informally to, and socialise with, other referees. Please make every effort to attend as the sessions play an important part in developing referees’ competence.
    • The set of the Society’s Preferred Options papers as mentioned above.
    • 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 website is the main source for up-to-date information; including notice of meetings and fitness tests, important law changes and guidelines. You should check it at least once a week.

  • How does the Society communicate with me?

    The main methods are:
    • By email sent by Society officers from the WTR email server
    • Through its website ( e.g. by means of homepage announcements
    • Society Handbook
    • 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?

    The Manchester & District Rugby Union Referees’ Society (M&DRURS) Ltd is a company limited by guarantee.

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

    The directors of M&DRURS Ltd have delegated the management of the company to the Executive Committee (EC), which 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, competition organisers, counties and the clubs, universities and schools that it serves. The EC sets the Society’s overall strategy and the Annual Action Plan, in which specific objectives are set.

    All of the directors, with the exception of the Honorary Solicitor, are members of the EC.

    The EC members, all of whom are elected, are supported by numerous officers who are responsible for specific tasks or areas of the Society’s activities. The directors, EC members and officers are listed in the Handbook.

    It is worth noting in passing that all directors, 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 Grading Committee’s key function is the grading of referees.
    The Chairman of Training and Development (of referees and assessors) works with the EC and various Society officers to define and implement the Society’s training and development strategy.
    The Appointments Team is responsible for allocating referees to games. It consists of the Appointments Secretaries for Saturday, Sunday and midweek games respectively and associated Re-appointments Secretaries.
    The Administration Team, led 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 the Honorary Secretary.
    The Finance Team 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
    New members Recruitment Officer
    Law questions / Competition rules / Training & Development Chairman Training & Development / Your Level Co-ordinator
    Grading (and being assessed) Your Level Co-ordinator
    Forms - Red Card & Abuse Assistant Secretary (Red Card & Abuse)
    Forms - Serious injury Honorary Secretary
    Availability Appointments and Re-Appointments Secretaries