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Six Nations rugby should boast female officials

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John Beattie | 10:48 UK time, Monday, 31 January 2011

Should the Six Nations have touch judges and referees who are women? And as we don't at the moment, are we behind football, a sport that has female officials in the English Premier League?

It was the very fact that football does indeed have female officials at the highest level that exposed what we might call an "off-mic problem".

We probably have the same problem.

Life is complicated: I've been part of sexist conversations with other men so I'm not perfect, and Loose Women, a programme, I confess, I have not watched in its entirety, makes fun of men.

Rugby songs, or at least many of them, are sexist and homophobic and can be guaranteed to clear a room in 30 seconds of anyone bar the singers who are left to continue in their drunken, high volume, six-part harmonies by themselves.

Assistant referee Sian Massey

Should rugby introduce female officials like football has with assistant referee Sian Massey?

Edwina Currie, on Question Time, suggested that Will Self was less gorgeous than Chuka Umanna, and although it was to make a point about retaliation it was still playing the sexist game.

Men talk about men and women; women talk about men and women, but it is true to say that life isn't just complicated, it's unfair as well and I would suggest that in every country in the world women are subjugated in some form.

I can make an argument against men and women playing against each other in full contact rugby. Men, in general, are bigger and stronger than women.

I can't, though, make an argument for women having, for example, worse hand-eye co-ordination, eyesight, logic, brains, driving ability (I bet the new Stig is a woman) or intelligence.

So, what then is rugby's argument against women as referees or touch judges at the Six Nations or indeed the World Cup?

Rugby, as a brand, belongs to both sexes: Mums and Dads take boys and girls to mini-rugby. Men and women referee games, make the teas, drive the buses, organise the clubs, provide rubs and physiotherapy, and the list goes on.

There are lineswomen in tennis, although Andy Roddick's tirade at a lineswoman at the US Open last year has led some to ask as to whether male tennis players are more aggressive with lineswomen than men.

My gut feeling is that rugby is behind the times in terms of women officiating at major rugby events. Perhaps there are no women high enough up the refereeing ladder but that needs to change.

So, there we are, I think women should officiate at the Six Nations and World Cup.

What do you think?

John Beattie co-presents Sport Nation: Six Nations Special, this Tuesday 1 February at 1900 GMT on BBC 2 Scotland.


  • Comment number 1.

    Of course women should be allowed to officiate anything as long as they are good enough and qualified enough to do so.

    A bad idea would be to go too far the other way and try and be politically correct and give a woman an officiating job because they are a woman.

    In short the best referees should be chosen to do the officiating. If this happens to include females, so be it.

  • Comment number 2.

    The argument about whether females should be allowed to referee a male match is probably a no-brainer: Males referee female matches so there is no principled reason why females cannot referee male matches. The last 2 female matches I've watched have been refereed, in one case by a man and in the other by a women and the latter seemed to be making a far better job of it.
    Once the principle has been established one then gets into the very murky waters of whether the system treats both genders equally - in other words whether it is as easy for a female referee to progress through the system as a male, whether just getting into the system is as easy for a female as a male and whether the system markets itself equally to male and female. I don't know.
    In one respect (word chosen specifically) rugby should be much more welcoming than association football and that is ... respect. I would wager the level of abuse a female association football referee would receive from players and fans (just for being a referee, not because of gender) would be significantly greater than that dished out by rugby players or supporters.

  • Comment number 3.

    Don't see any harm in it. They couldn't do any worse a job than some of the current numpties that call themselves a referee!!!!!

  • Comment number 4.

    Dear John,
    Thanks for an excellent article, and all those lads from North Britain remembering great moments - strange how many seem to be about beating we English! Murrayfield's a great venue - and the pure Angus beef burgers are worth queuing for!
    Perhaps my two greatest rugby memories are not 5 or 6 nations but (1) is Derek Wyatt streaking across the Twickenham snow in the last seconds of the Varsity match, only to be tackled into touch inches short by a chappy from the Fenland Redbrick who had covered acres of ground to get his cover tackle in.
    (2) Has got to be in an outdoor restaurant opposite the Pitti Palace in Florence on THAT DAY in 2003. Several Aussie supporters passing stopped and shook hands and offered congratulations to England. As my wife said - you would never expect such courtesy if that had been a soccer match.
    That said she hadn't seen the game. When I offered her the chance at breakfast she gave me one of those looks and announced: 'I have not come to Florence to sit in a bar abd watch a rugby match.'
    We are still married.

  • Comment number 5.

    The fact is that at the highest level the game is fast and the ref must be as quick and as fit as the players on the pitch. There are some excellent lady refs around and they brook no nonsense from the players I can assure you.
    I have seen some games, especially in the old Super 12, which were ruined by unfit and off the pace refs being out of position and 10 yards behind the action. If the lady refs can make the fitness and pace I am all for them being included with the top men refs that can make the fitness and pace.
    Watch the last Women's World Cup Final and you will see a top lady ref doing a superb job.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi, it's strange that everyone (rufref hasn't loaded as I write this) agrees with. I know lots of people, and I tested this theory yesterday, say one thing in private and another in public.

    We all agree - but there aren't any women officiating in the Six Nations........

  • Comment number 7.

    I see no reason why there shouldn't be female referees and touch judges refereeing high profile rugby matches.

    A few months back I completed level 1 refereeing (practical still to be done) and this is no more difficult for a female to do than any male. The main point raised, however, was not whether females should referee but simply that there are not enough referees in general. The days of accepting the referee's decision are long gone and with that many would-be referees would rather not face an angry player or crowd. The IRB are always looking to tweak the game and perhaps its time they looked at refereeing, not simply changing the laws. One referee is not able to see all that goes on during a game, yet touch judges have such little in-put.

    So long as all referees, regardless of gender, complete the necessary qualifications (and there are many levels to complete) then there should be no problem.

    Rugby is not such a male-dominated sport as football and it is disappointing that there are not yet top-flight female referees but I think that will change soon enough. As with your blog last week, rugby is a friendly sport, gender doesn't really matter. Usually on any rugby course I'm the only girl in the group and I'm always accepted as an equal. I don't think that football fans/players will ever fully accept women officials but I think rugby fans would. We'll just have to wait and see.

    However, I would also agree with you, John, that women and men playing full contact is not a good idea. Having spent yesterday with 18 male coaches working on the scrum and contact, my shoulders, ribcage and wrist are a little tender (and that was us "going easy").

  • Comment number 8.


    At a mini rugby level (Under 7s to Under 12s)where the game is mixed, about 10-15% coaches and players are females. Most tend to drop out when the girls get to Under 10s/11s due to puberty, and the lack of women's rugby teams...

    There are some staid and stuffy clubs who probably wouldn't stop the girls being involved in mini rugby but wouldn't encourage them either...

    It's noticeable when you have a couple of girls on a mini rugby team that the whole team tends to play together as a team more, and less glory hunting.

    As for women officiating in international matches, if they are good enough on merit then they should be included in the refereeing panel ... However they would need to progress through the ranks of club fixtures and european competition before reaching the heights of refereeing an international match...

    If a woman reached this point on merit then I am sure that they would be treated with the same deference that the existing officials are..

  • Comment number 9.

    .....only 6 part harmonies......obviously no woman singers in that bunch. Am I allowed to say that? :-)

    I actually think that rugby would cope better than football with woman officials as there is more respect there to begin with. They could do as good a job as male officials but may well bring something extra to the melee - more attention from the players maybe. Suspect there is no reason why it shouldn't happen but the process of starting off training officials probably has no women joining it at anytime. Does anyone know of any female rugby official at any level who has started on the formal training process of being a referee or touch judge?

  • Comment number 10.

    I agree with scottish in the toon; if women are good enough they should be allowed to referee at the highest level, but we don't want to fast-track someone for the benefit of the PC brigade if they aren't good enough.

    I think however the reason why there are no top leve refs or linewoman in rugby could be due to numbers;

    From just doing a quick trawl I found that there are 40,000+ registered football clubs in England. There are 26,000 male referees for all of these clubs compared to just 853 female referees.

    Compare the football club figure to rugby and the number of rugby clubs in England is below 3,000. Althoug I can't find a figure, the number of rugby referees is as such going to be much lower (going on the ratio of football clubs to refs I would guess around 2000 rugby refs) therefore the number of female refs is going to be much lower.

    This obviously makes the likelihood of there being a top-class female referee very small. Again, as scottish in the toon said we don't want to prmote a female official to the highest level of the game for PC reasons, but if there are any good enough, why not.

    This is just a theory, but I believe it could have some substance!

  • Comment number 11.

    i've no problem with women refereeing rugby; they qualify on the same premise that if they're good enough get them in! i'd rather that than have a token woman in the world cup just for the sake of having a woman official.

    however, i am 100% against women officiating televised rugby games, simply as i don't think i'd be able to put up with a lassie's high pitched screaming at rucks for 80 minutes... that would do me!

    a light hearted end to a serious point!

  • Comment number 12.

    If the poor little flowers struggle with the offside rule in football, how on earth are they going to get their pretty little heads around the offside rules of rugby!!

    In all seriousness though i dont see there would be a problem with having female referees if like said before they were at the required standard.

    I cant see it happenening for some years yet because as mentioned, there does not seem to be many female officials any where near the top standard of rugby.

    I guess it may come down to whether there are any women out there with aspirations to become a top flight ref.

  • Comment number 13.

    The argument should not be about whether women would be competent enough to officiate male rugby matches; this is self-evident. They could, at considerably greater physical risk than a male counterpart. The argument should be over whether this would be a good thing for rugby, I do not believe it would.

    There are very few realms left for men to channel their natural aggression through productive and noble means. Sport is one of those areas, Rugby in particular. Most other areas of life have been emasculated of their gender character - particularly male dominated sports. I will leave qualifying statements about fairness and democracy to others but, put simply, just because somebody can do something doesn't mean they should.

    I believe it is vital that men have areas of competition that are their exclusive reserve; this is not about bigotry, its about identity, character-forming and freedom from the kind of regulations that creep like a thief in the night in to most areas of life, regulations that suffocate any joy and passion that may exist under a veneer of 'equality' and 'positive discrimination'.

    Aside from this there are physical considerations. Nature is not democratic. I reiterate: Men, for the most part, are considerably stronger and likely to do far more damage to a female than a male upon physical impact. If a female referee is accidentally blind-sided or is called upon to break up a fight then the consequences are always going to be more dangerous. We're not talking about the local under 8's rugby here, we're talking about fully grown men in peak physical condition, weighing 15 to 20 stone, contending with someone literally a third of their size and a tenth of their muscle mass. This is laughable. I'm aware that there female police officers who are called upon break up fights outside of night clubs every weekend but a point in fact is that they will always have male back-up. They need it. Men - physiologically and emotionally - are far better designed to deal with aggression and physical trauma.

    Thus, in terms of the identity of rugby, the greater exposure to physical harm for females and the emasculation of one of the last bastions of maleness western society has left, I believe female referees would be damaging to all parties concerned. Men and women are simply different - this is a good thing not something to be corrected - vive la difference!

    Of course, with humility and respect, I am open to suggestion - if not outright correction. Thanks John for an as always inciteful blog.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'd say go for it, if the ref was qualified enough there is no reason why not. As a sport we are taught to treat the ref with respect so be the ref male or female then there would be no problem, none of the rushing up and intimidation that you see in football when a decision is made , irrespective of good or bad it seems.
    If anything, rugby could be shining example, given the laddish behaviour that does go on sometimes in rugby, several feamle freinds have remarked at how respectful players are to the official in the middle and to the ladies themselves later on ....depending on the night out ;-)

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi John

    Sound points as ever. There are some fantastic female referees out there and there is an inverse form of sexism in that language and respect of those officials is often much higher than for our brethren.

    I do have a few concerns though: a few years ago after officiating a match in London, I couldn't help but notice a few female referees hanging around a certain very drunk premiership referee. I really and truly hope that this was not an attempt to secure progression through feminine wiles...

  • Comment number 16.

    As there are enough male refs around today that have enough trouble with the rules (not just the offside one) then I'd agree that if they are good enough then they should be doing the job.
    I guess there are enough hard nosed rugby men out there who use their saturdays to get away from a woman telling them what to do. Taking away their one afternoon of peace might just be too much!!

  • Comment number 17.

    In many ways rugby is ahead of football already and women officials could well be seen at Six Nations internationals in the near future. One of the leading female referee (USA's Dana Teagarden) refereed at least one men's international last year (in Germany, if I remember right).

    In addition at club level in England Claire Daniels - the RFU's Referee Development Officer for the South (ie. she is responsible for both men and women) - has taken charge of games in National League 2 level (rugby's equivalent to the Football League), and I am sure that women have also run touch at a higher level.

    The problem is there has been a real lack of women officials for many years - there has been an ongoing campaign for some years now to recruit more which has only recently begun to bear fruit. Although most of the officials at last summer's WRWC were female, the IRB still had to call on a couple of male officials to make up numbers as there were insufficient experienced women officials worldwide.

  • Comment number 18.

    By the way, John, it took me all of 30 seconds to find Claire Daniel's contact details at the RFU (email, but her phone number is also easy to find). Before making any more wild guesses about women rugby officials, maybe you should drop her a line?

    As a BBC rugby journalist and "expert" on rugby I am actually a little disappointed that I - a mere follower of the game - appear to know far more about top level officials, not to mention IRB and RFU recruitment campaigns, than you seem to. In future before putting finger to keyboard why not pick up the phone, or even just use your favourite search engine...

  • Comment number 19.

    John Birch - I don't see any women refereeing or touch judgeing (not a word I know) at Six Nations games.

  • Comment number 20.

    Women as touch judges and video ref's should definately happen. However im not sure about refing a game because now and then ref's do get smashed. Imagine spies or chabal knocking into a female ref, Good night.

  • Comment number 21.

    Okay - "Assistant Referee" is you insist. I still call them touch judges...

    I agree - no women officiating at the Six Nations this season - but that does not prove much.

    Female officials are not going to leap from Division 2 to major internationals in one go - they will have to appear in the Premiership first (or Magners, or overseas equivalent). There is also the complication that these are internationals, so the pool of potential officials is international (ie. you cannot just have English officials taking all the games), which makes it rather harder to break into.

    Fact is that women (such as Dana) have taken charge of lower level men's internationals already, which is more than can be said for football.

    But there is not need for uninformed speculation. Have a word with Clare - she won't bite.

  • Comment number 22.

    Once upon a time, people said that Italy weren't good enough to join the 5 Nations. They are now an integral part of the 6 Nations and the competition, in my opinion, is all the better for it.
    So the discussion we are having now about female referees may be a redundant argument in 10 years time? I think it will happen, there will be a female match official in the 6 Nations, but as with any high level sport, the referee needs to meet the required standard.
    If they meet the standard, they qualify to referee the game.
    Female referees were at the 7s World Cup in Dubai so the next logical step is for them to move into the upper levels of the 15 a side game.

  • Comment number 23.

    John Birch - I agree, they need to be moved up the ladder asap, I am not doing any speculating, I am merely saying that women should be brought into the highest levels of rugby as officials, and they are not at the moment.

    But, English football is ahead of rugby as the Premiership, in football, is almost as rarified as it gets, certainly its at least on a par with most internationals

  • Comment number 24.

    Two years ago at my local club (Level 5) we had the "pleasure" of Sarah Corrigan refereeing a match.

    Although she not does not have a huge physical presence, she controlled the game in a manner which we seldom see from other referees at this level. She stood for no nonsense in the scrums and allowed the game to flow in a Southern Hemisphere manner which I am sure improved the player's enjoyment. If I recall both sides ran in a number of tries.

    If she is a benchmark for other women referees then we should be introducing them to the higher levels of the male game sooner rather than later.

  • Comment number 25.


    I know the PC crowd are not going to like this as they love keywords like "diversity" and "inlcusivity."

    However, many men play rugby at club level because they like to play with the lads and get away from the ladies. Do we really have to have women reffing mens' games? They can ref womens' rugby if they want to. What next? A law that says that 52% of international refs must be women to reflect their percentage of the population?

    I don't doubt that women are more than capable of being as good a ref as it's not a sexist comment. Why can't men just be able to enjoy the one of the last bastion's of maleness...there is nothing wrong with that.

    On a safety note..I have noticed quite a few male refs getting absolutely clobbered by mistake in Prem and internaitonal games. Would a smaller women come out of these collisions as well? I doubt it!

  • Comment number 26.

    All I can say on this subject is that i've had one female ref this season, and she was possibly the best ref we've had all season. Managed a fixture that normally gets ugly without any fights despite a largish for this level crowd, she was very clear with her decisions and even got our lippy 7 to shut up. This just shows that the quality of a ref has very little to do with physical, but beign consise, consistent and fair to both teams.

    However on the other hand she did have a very quiet voice, and with my head sandwiched between two fat arses i really couldnt hear the crouch touch pause engage, and i was probably to blame for a number of early engages.

  • Comment number 27.

    if they are good enough then why not?! however the women referees i have come across personally have not been of that high a standard but at the same time i have had many worse male referees!

    by the way, tell the schedulers to put your programme on at a time when the 32,000 odd players the SRU says it has aren't at training!

  • Comment number 28.

    I am all for women refs. Anytime we have had one, our players have been more respectful, and the crowd has barracked them rather less. And it also challenged our supporters to be less sexist in their attitudes - we are at the start of a long journey.

    But at present in my experience of Scottish rugby, they are very much the exception. We need many more of them. I have no objection to fast tracking but we also need more refs in Scotland as a whole. This too is a long journey.

  • Comment number 29.

    If they are good enough then of course they should referee. I agree with all these comments opposed to positive discrimination [that would undermine good female referees!].

    While rugby might not have any women who've made it to high-level refereeing,we're miles ahead of football in terms of our open mindedness - I don't think the Nigel Owens' and Gareth Thomas' of the world would be quite so welcome in football. [Rugby's reaction has been brilliant in that respect - neither has been treated differently - the reaction has simply been to say 'so what - one is a good ref, the other a good player and that's all that matters to me.' I don't think we'd have to deal with hostility to women officiating.

    I spoke to England legend Nigel Starmer-Smith as part of a fund raising exercise a few years ago, just before he began commentating on the women's 7s series, and his enthusiasm for the women's game was inspiring - 'better than the men's in many respects.' Scrum V gives coverage to the Welsh women's team; Rugby World magazine regularly interviews and reviews Female players at the top level - SKY recently broadcast the Women's RWC in it's entirety. As far as promoting the women's game is going; I feel that rugby is miles ahead of football again.

    It's not all perfect of course - last year I coached a women's team and the head coach was all out to prove their limitations as women, rather than their strengths; we had many women officials who were average [though none as dreadful as many of the men we had in the women's leagues!]. But the women's game is getting stronger all the time and the more integration it can get with the men's the better for it.

  • Comment number 30.

    John, why "should women be brought in to the highest levels of rugby"? It sounds like you are in favour of frog marching them to the top at the expense of equally qualified men.

    If women want to be involved in rugby at the highest levels and they are good enough then what is preventing them from reaching the highest levels of rugby? Address that issue and you will begin to find that the best will rise to the top.

    When it comes to officiating rugby matches I have no doubt that women are equally as good, or bad, as men. I think that the only thing slowing the rise of women to the highest levels is probably the blazers at club, union and IRB levels.

  • Comment number 31.

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  • Comment number 32.

    One of the most intellectually lazy, preening and trite series of comments I have read in a long time. I hate to break up the like-fest, but while most of you are back-slapping each other over how incredibly enlightened and progressive you are for being 'all for it!' you might actually spare some time to engage with the more substantive issues brought forward by people of the opposite viewpoints. Most of the rhetoric I'm reading hear is self-indulgent and self-contradictory balderdash. Every second post repeats the bland assertions of the last. If you haven't already guessed my views on the matter refer yourself to my comments above.

  • Comment number 33.


    I dont believe I have ever seen a male referee either at the professional level or amateur attempt to step in and physically separate a fight, generally they just let the players get on with it blow their whistle and try to find out who's the perpetrator, so your argument regarding this holds little water with me, especially when you consider how little fighting there is at the top end of the game nowadays.

    I played at the Newquay sevens tournament last summer and although it was only sevens the female referee who took part in our quarter final match more than outperformed some of the male referees i have encountered, some of whom are just ex or poor rugby players on a power trip.

    One thing I did find other than her being extremely conpetent was the level of respect both sides gave her. I think most would agree with the cliche that rugby is a thugs game played by gentleman. In general gentleman respect women. So i think a female referee may even receive slightly more respect on the field than their male conouterparts. I know id be more susceptible to a volley of verbal abuse at a ref (even with the knowledge of being marched back 10 yards) if he was male than if the ref was female

  • Comment number 34.

    Gavin, regarding your first point: I am stunned you would maintain that you've never seen a referee step in and attempt to physically separate a fight or that there is 'little fighting' at the top end of the game. Both are factually incorrect. Demonstrably, there are fights in all ranks of rugby every weekend. I don't have to rely on anecdotes or personal experiences here - the evidence is there if you care to look for it. Yet even if fights did happen only rarely that would still have to be legislated for with female referees. What is all the officials at a rugby match are female? Are they just going to wait until security run on to the pitch to break up the scuffle? This is ridiculous. When two opposing players are belting each other - and this, in spite of your wholly incorrect assertion, does happen all the time - all it takes is one stray fist.

    Even aside from potential or accidental injury, enough actual physical and verbal abuse of top-flight male referees has occurred to warrant serious questions as to whether we should rely on 'gentleman' like behaviour. In Anyone capable of eye-gouging a human being (as we've seen several times in a short period) then we can hardly rely on them to feign demureness with a female referee.

    I respect the fact that women referees could be as competent as male ones - you don't have to point out weak examples of male referees to highlight how good or necessary or desirable female referees might be, this just weakens your argument. I am stressing it would not be good for rugby, or potentially for female referees themselves.

    Your point about verbal abuse being more likely from men is bizzare. This isn't an argument for female referees - its an argument for male referees to adopt the same 'gentlemanly' attitude that you laud so highly. Whatever resentment you may derive from unhappy experiences with male referees should not be the basis for your views on female referees.

    Again, I have to point out - you may have read, but you certainly haven't engaged substantively with, my above comments. My main argument is not about whether women can do it, my argument is that it would not be good for the character of Rugby overall.

  • Comment number 35.

    Eblana wrote a passionate article against the inclusion of feamle refs on the grounds that they are not as physically strong. This often the case but I'm sure you'll also agree this is not always such, male refs aren't selected for thier physical prowes so why exclude women just because they "weaker". If you lined up the biggest international ref with even the smallest international player my money would be on the player. Physicality has nothing to do with it, proffesional players will respect refs being even, fair, consistant with a sound interpration of the rules and able to keep up with play. If someone can cope with all this, regardless of size, height, shoe size or length of left index finger then get them invloved.

    Just read your last post Elbana, from my experiance at working on a door with women, men are less likely to get physical when a women is dealing with a situation. When they have needed to get involved they have been more than cope. Most matches I've seen it's often the players that step in to break up fights, not the ref, he just stand there blowing his whisle with his hands in his pockets getting his cards ready.

  • Comment number 36.

    No problem with female officials. They can't be much worse than some of the irish referees who have refereed Edinburgh & Glasgow games over the last few seasons.....ask Peter Wright.

  • Comment number 37.

    thank you packpower and there in lies my point,

    i cant see good old nigel owens being able to physically step in and stop jerome kaino and andy powell having a ding dong, so there in mutes your point....if you have some a you tube clip in order to prove me wrong id be happy to see it....

    and you have missed my point regarding verbal abuse, the point was that in my opinion players would be more respectful towards a female referee.....just as packpower points out they are able to work as bouncers and are more likely to diffuse a situation without need for physical confrontation

    as for lower down the leagues, playing in wales where alot of people play just in order to fight, again the ref doesnt get in the middle eventually the players sort i tout themselves then the ref disciplines accordingly

  • Comment number 38.

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  • Comment number 39.

    As long as someone is capable to perform the job they are assigned to then gender does not matter. Lets face it, no woman could ever be as bad as the current crop of Scottish referees.

  • Comment number 40.


    My argument against the inclusion of female referees isn't about their 'strength' as much as to their comparative lack of robustness - as I alluded to in my other comments. Importantly, I stressed my feeling that it would irreparably change the nature of the game as we know it for the worse. Unashamedly, I would contend that female referees in top flight rugby would prove to be an emasculation and a dilution of a game that is, at its philosophic core, about traditionally paternalistic virtues.

    Are you seriously suggesting that Rugby - of all sports - has nothing to do with physicality? Really? This is patently untrue. Male referees aren't necessarily selected for their physical prowess - this is true to a point, I never denied this fact - but physical fitness and robustness are indeed factors in ensuring a referee can carry out their duties to the highest ability possible. How many 80 year old referees are out there taking charge of top flight games? That's not a rhetorical question, and I'm in no way being facetious, but you cannot maintain that physicality has nothing to do with a referees job when it so clearly does.

    Physicality - part of which is by your own admission the referees ability to keep up with the game - is also crucial area of concern because it lessens the likelihood of injury. Again, I have to repeat, I am not saying female referees would not be competent at officiating per se I am saying that if they got hurt the damage would be far more serious. Physicality has alot to do with the nature of the modern game - players are getting bigger, heavier and stronger. I would stress that this only increases a female referees exposure to risk. Your point that even the biggest referee against the smallest rugby player would only end in one way only strengthens my point and weakens your own.

    Men are less likely to get physical when a female is dealing with a situation? Again I must ask if you're being serious? Have you any studies to confirm this aside from your own personal experiences? Unfortunately for your argument I know of several studies that confirm the opposite. Working on a door with a woman is hardly an adequate analogy to make in justifying female inclusion among the top ranks of referees. Even from your own experiences you must surely know that when men fight the presence of a female does little to appease a situation. Men are built that way for a reason, even if those reasons may sometimes have a very ugly side.

    You mention that so long as one is able to keep up with the game and officiate then size, height, shoe size and - in an ironically disrespectful syndoche - left index finger should not be barriers to entry for females in refereeing. Well, these characteristics ARE barriers to entry precisely because they can affect ones ability to officiate a game. Ones size affects ones physical ability. I don't mean to sound sarcastic, but have you not already gleaned this rather salient point from watching, and most especially playing, rugby? Those characteristics you mention are already barriers to males in refereeing and in playing so females - in order for the much-praised but much-misunderstood virtue of equality to be kept strong - would be subject to the same requirements anyway!

    In any event, my thanks for your response, I respect your sincerity.

  • Comment number 41.

    Gavin I'm afraid your guilty of the sins you're inaccurately accusing me of. You missed the point entirely and you're being unfair on Nigel Owens, in my opinion one of the best referees in the world. If Mr. Owens was hurt that badly, which he was, then think of what would have happened to a female referee? This is the point entirely. My point wasn't muted, it was strengthened. You seem blissfully content to inadvertently bolster my own argument for me - quite effectively as well.

    I dealt with your point on verbal abuse emphatically - your contention is mere conjecture. Are you seriously suggesting that the role of a bouncer is an appropriate analogy with that of a referee? If this were true - and it is most certainly not - then we would no longer be talking about Rugby but something where rules do not apply. Even if women might be more likely to diffuse aggression at a nightclub door - which is another unfounded assertion - then you still have to answer the question as to whether a male or a female referee is better able to cope with physical aggression. Let me answer it for you since you seem to be either avoiding the issue or unwilling to answer it: they are not.

  • Comment number 42.

    I think they should be able to but it'll take time.

    I'm suggesting that because more women play football than rugby in Englandshire (data gathered from there is naturally more female officials in their game with some going on to a high level. By increasing the amount of female rugby players the amount of female officials would also increase and some will in time no doubt be able to cope with top level six nations games.

    Can't see many small clubs shelling out for the seconds ref's dressing room however that all this would entail.

  • Comment number 43.

    If any affiliated person is up to the standard of officiating in a match, then they are deemed worthy. Gender is no issue. Only an ignorant being would consider this controversial. However:

    "I can make an argument against men and women playing against each other in full contact rugby. Men, in general, are bigger and stronger than women.

    I can't, though, make an argument for women having, for example, worse hand-eye co-ordination, eyesight, logic, brains, driving ability (I bet the new Stig is a woman) or intelligence."

    There are general trends for all these functions. Some are more founded than others. Had you research available, you could have pulled up various figures from around the globe. All you're saying is that you haven't (and, perhaps most soundly, concluded it irrelevant).

    Gender matters nothing in the civil world, of equal rights. Not a thing. Consider all nature where defining characteristics of male and female become muddled. Consider mutilation, forced or self-administered. Consider free thought.

    When rugby fanatics wait on the arrival of the next Daniel Carter, then gender probably has a bearing.

    I expect the appearance of female officials will begin at lower levels and not immediately into the Six Nations of the Rugby World Cup, by dint of the merit system that is already in place. I would much prefer this than any apparent publicity stunt.

    Looking forward to match analyses!

  • Comment number 44.

    Not a problem with female referees at all EXCEPT that many feel that the best refs have an affinity with the players/game and not just the laws.

  • Comment number 45.

    I debated as to whether it would be worth posting this, but I felt I might as well address some of the points made by Eblana;

    1) "Unashamedly, I would contend that female referees in top flight rugby would prove to be an emasculation and a dilution of a game that is, at its philosophic core, about traditionally paternalistic virtues."
    - This is a good, well-made point, albeit one that I don't necessarily agree with...

    2) "Are you seriously suggesting that Rugby - of all sports - has nothing to do with physicality? Really?"
    - Nobody said that. What was said was that referees do not require the same physicality as players...

    3) "physical fitness and robustness are indeed factors in ensuring a referee can carry out their duties to the highest ability possible. How many 80 year old referees are out there taking charge of top flight games?"
    - Firstly, given that this discussion is about women officiating, you appear to be likening women's physical abilities with that of an 80 year-old? And if you're not doing that, what do you mean by that example?
    3.1) "That's not a rhetorical question, and I'm in no way being facetious, but you cannot maintain that physicality has nothing to do with a referees job when it so clearly does."
    - You appear to be conflating physicality and physical fitness and robustness (both terms you used). You're right, women don't tend to have the same physicality as men, and you're also right that physical fitness is essential for a referee. However, physicality is definitely not the same as physical fitness, and women are clearly capable of attaining the same fitness levels as men (with the possible exception of the very top levels of sport, but we're talking about refereeing here, not competing at the highest level).

    4) "Your point that even the biggest referee against the smallest rugby player would only end in one way only strengthens my point and weakens your own."
    - No it doesn't. His point was that women would be facing exactly the same risks as the smaller male referees currently face, and they seem to manage fine...

    5) "Men are less likely to get physical when a female is dealing with a situation? Again I must ask if you're being serious? Have you any studies to confirm this aside from your own personal experiences?"
    - Again, I'm not sure this is what he meant. I believe (although I'm prepared to be corrected) that he meant that men are less likely to get physical WITH a woman who is dealing with a situation. They'll still fight just as much with the other men, but are less likely to hit a female referee than a male one.

    6) "Well, these characteristics ARE barriers to entry precisely because they can affect ones ability to officiate a game. Ones size affects ones physical ability. I don't mean to sound sarcastic, but have you not already gleaned this rather salient point from watching, and most especially playing, rugby?"
    - Size does affect physical ability, yes, but given that physical ability (in all respects other than fitness) isn't anywhere near as important for refereeing as it is for playing, this shouldn't be a significant barrier to female referees, any more than it is to males. (and in an aside, some of the truly great rugby players have been smaller - Jason Robinson, Shane Williams etc)

    7) "You missed the point entirely and you're being unfair on Nigel Owens, in my opinion one of the best referees in the world. If Mr. Owens was hurt that badly, which he was, then think of what would have happened to a female referee? This is the point entirely. My point wasn't muted, it was strengthened."
    - Once again you seem to be wilfully misinterpreting someone's comment. What he actually said was that the referees DON'T get involved in the fights, simply because whether they are big, small, male or female, they would still get badly hurt. Therefore it doesn't matter if it's a male ref or a female, because they wont be wading into the middle of a fight anyway. Obviously this links back to your earlier comment:
    "Gavin, regarding your first point: I am stunned you would maintain that you've never seen a referee step in and attempt to physically separate a fight"
    Now it's my turn to ask YOU if you're genuinely serious. How many times have you actually seen a referee try to physically break up a fight himself? Almost without exception, the ref stand on the edge and waits for the fight to peter out before getting involved. You yourself said;
    "I don't have to rely on anecdotes or personal experiences here - the evidence is there if you care to look for it." I'm afraid I disagree, so in this case the onus is on you to provide the evidence that supports your claim...

    7.1) "What is all the officials at a rugby match are female? Are they just going to wait until security run on to the pitch to break up the scuffle? This is ridiculous."
    - Obviously this was based on the assertion that the referees are responsible for physically breaking up the fights, which I've tried to address above. My point here is that a) referees DON'T physically stop fights, so no problem with being women there, and fights tend to stop after a while of their own accord. If a fight continues and escalates, then are you really saying that 3 male officials would be any better than 3 female officials at stopping it? Because I find that very hard to believe, and quick searches on youtube seem to support my stance (

    My apologies if this comes across as a rant or some form of an attack on Eblana, it wasn't meant to! :p
    As I said at the beginning, your core point about the emasculation of paternalistic values (paraphrased :P) is a valid one, I just disagree with the rest of your assertions!

  • Comment number 46.


    Your veiled, unhelpful and rather obnoxious labelling of those who hold the opposite points of view as 'ignorant beings(s)' does a disservice to those you brazenly claim to be speaking on behalf of and does nothing to address the issues raised. What you really mean is that those who hold the opposite points of view to you are 'ignorant being(s)'. Such conceit and arrogant dismissiveness isn't a substitute for an argument - it betrays shallow and reactionary thinking, untouched my any reference to fact and all too marred by an inverted prejudice. I have never made any claims to infallibility but you, apparently having access to a higher plane of thought than the rest of humanity, dine a la carte on scientific data that demolishes any claim to physical parity between the genders and imbue it with meanings that are simply not there. How thus can you maintain that gender differences are irrelevant in the civil world - they're part of the cornerstone of ones identity and very role in that civil society.

    Are you really questioning the fact that men are, in general, taller, faster, stronger and more resistant to physical injury than women? Why not just say it then instead of bizzare and irrelevant ramblings on 'mutilation' and 'free thought'. I don't dispute your won right to free though, but don't contend that I am ignorant simply because I disagree with you and have a relevant argument to make.

  • Comment number 47.


    First of all, I would prefer if the people who made the comments actually spoke for themselves - though, in fairness, you do have some valid points and are sincere in expressing them.

    2)Yes, it was said. No, I do not dispute that referees don't need the same physical robustness as players - this is missing the issue. I stated quite baldly that female referees do not have the same physical robustness as male referees.

    3)You know quite well I am doing no such thing. This is a lazy broadside. My analogy is a pertinent one and entirely relevant. Its intention is to refute the point that ones physical capacities are irrelevant in refereeing. They are entirely relevant.

    3.1)I am not conflating any terms, they are distinct issues and I know exactly what I meant in using them. You contradict your own point that women are capable of the same levels of fitness as men and then, within the same sentence, make an exception. Physicality and physical fitness are both important but my main focus is on physicality and its relation to the ability to reduce injury as I have maintained throughout.

    4)Yes it does. Women have a risk exposure much greater than men of a comparable size and would be hurt to a much greater extent with a comparable hit.

    5)Conjecture. if you want the proof there's a very well-known search engine at your disposal.

    6)You are the one who is confused on the issue of physical ability and physical fitness. Even if women are fit enough to keep up with the game - something I would not for the most part dispute - this does not mean that they are as physically capable as dealing with physical trauma - however it comes about. My point isn't about size its about an ability. Mentioning smaller rugby players is utterly irrelevant.

    7)I have done nothing of the kind. His point was refuted not only for what it was but for what it implied. Referees DO get involved. I have witnessed it.

    The person making the original claim is the one who has the onus of providing evidence. Since both you and the person you are quoting are the ones making the claim that referees do not get involved in fights (either intentionally or unintentionally)the onus is entirely on you to show otherwise - but you can't, because there is no clearly no evidence to make such an inaccurate observation. Thus, logically speaking, all I need do is cite one example where referees have been injured from a fracas and your point is redundant. Fortunately for the point I making there are hundreds of examples and, though I am happy to provide evidence for the points I make, I am not about to do peoples research for them.

    7.1)It was based on no such assertion - referees are not responsible for breaking up fights but they are responsible for maintaining order on the field, even in the event of fights taking place. This, as you well know, does not stop referees attempting to break them up. They simply do. Whether they should or not is another matter. As I stated, all it would take is a stray fist or an errant tackle - even if they stay on the sidelines as has happened before - and the female referee would be far more prone to physical damage than a male so, yes, there most certainly is a problem there where you contend there isn't.

    Yes, I am saying that 3 male officials would be better disposed toward breaking up a scuffle than 3 female officials. Just because you find it hard to believe does not mean it isn't believable. Your quick searches on youtube, which I have seen already, serve my point entirely: if those incidents had occurred with women then they would have been injured to a far greater extent. I would suggest you have another quick perusal of video evidence from the above website and you will find a have a valid point.

    I didn't interpret your words as an attack at all. I appreciate the time you took in arguing against my points, your arguments were for the most part relevant and forceful.

  • Comment number 48.


    I don't question the trends, but they are mostly just a curiosity. If someone is to officiate, they are qualified on grounds of their ability; their gender is an afterthought. Were a body recruiting en masse, then the qualities of gender are good to bear in mind, for the sake of efficiency. I can only think of conscription as an historical example.

    People will identify themselves with nearly anything; gender, race, wealth, etc. It's part and parcel of survival. It gives people comfort, strength, advantage. As the self is preferred, it creates divide; that if one is not in the same party as another, both are oddities to each other, and perhaps even less regarded.

    I suppose I speak in idealistic terms. As such, it is I who was ignorant to denounce what are values of the majority. I regret it, and I'm thankful for your confrontation.

    On the point of the article, I state that as an elective process an individual who is capable of officiating is one who possesses a set of qualities that allow for high-grade performance. Should they qualify, their background is incidental.

  • Comment number 49.


    When you state that someone should be qualified on the grounds of ability I must assume that this also includes physical ability - including the ability to withstand trauma. Gender cannot be an afterthought because male and female physical capacities are so starkly different, this is particularly important when dealing with a contact sport like rugby. The trends are not a curiosity - they are highly relevant, particularly when considering the physical welfare of people.

    Conscription is a bad example since it was neither efficient nor effective. In fact women, in most militaries around the world, are actually barred from front line military service for many of the reasons I have listed above.

    You also say the self is preferred - it has to be in order to survive. Yet, rugby is a team sport where any selfish traits can - when the sport is at its most noble - be overcome.

    I didn't mean to be confrontational or overtly terse - if I was apologise. I must stress that I did not espouse any values of the majority - indeed, considering the comments on this blog, I am very much in the minority in my views.

  • Comment number 50.


    I highly enjoy your commitment to contribute; if my PC had nares, they'd be flared.

    In general, it is true that males and females differ in physical terms. However, this is only vital information to recruitment, i.e. were I needing an athletic official, what population group would I target. This is why I utilize the example of conscription - men, approximated to their physical peak, sent to the front line, as a quick means of employment (versus a series of interviews and tests on individual bases). On its utility, I do not condone it; but, of certain pivotal moments in history, needs deemed a must.

    Perhaps this is a point I have not mentioned but need to; rugby, in its pure and non-professional (or marketable) state, does not specifically need women referees. Indeed, it does not suffer from a deficiency of trained officials, and hence has no need for recruitment policies.

    As such, the want of officiating is purely belonging to the individual. Should they approach the appropriate organization, and be seen to train and perform to the required ability, and employment is open, then it is their's to embark on.

    I don't doubt that any female could reach the level of fitness as an elite rugby referee. Perhaps their nature (their genetic detail) is at first a disadvantage, but in nurturing themselves in an appropriate environment (which is certainly ours in the developed world), they will be fit for the prize. The only other limiting factor, I'd speculate, is time, but I don't consider it debilitating.

    I think it is essential to note that elite rugby referees are selected on their experience and their accomplishments, and their gradual promotion through a meritocracy. After a certain threshold (of physique, stamina, perception, etc), any individual is capable of ascending the chain. However, if someone is speculating promotion on the grounds of gender, in a blind attempt to expand the market of professional rugby, I wholly disapprove, and question its likely success.

    On mention of "self" and such other notions, I must desist conversing. I feel it is off-topic, and somewhat regret introducing it. Thank you for addressing it, and apologies I must end it here.

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

    The only answer has to be

    being judged on getting the correct calls

    but given the nature of the game with infinite possible infringements at every breakdown or passage of play I suspect the media would play a big part in this as it is beginning to do already

    Bill McLaren used to say it is a penalty because the ref says so

    P.S. How many up and coming young male refs were asked to officiate at last years Womans World Cup

  • Comment number 53.

    Donald Peddie,

    Is that your professional opinion? That's for another blog entirely.

  • Comment number 54.


    I have played rugby for 25 years and watched the sport for more years than that. If you can provide an example for each of the last 25 years where officials have been involved physically in breaking up a fight during a match i might take your point as valid. I personally have never witnessed it myself and i don't believe one example to be sufficient to make a case of barring female referees, that is if you can even find one example.

  • Comment number 55.

    I could see a woman ref doing the job. Why not? A ref does not have a bad game because of gender. It is because of understanding of the rules, applying them in a fair and consistent way and fitness are the main factors in a godd ref. Fitness is by far the biggest factor in my experience in playing and refereeing. If you cant quite keep up with play decisons are less reliable.

    Passion for the game is what drives a person to put in the work to be up to speed with the laws and the fitness required to referee the game. Gender just doesnt figure.

    I also think two refrees and having of an appeal system using TMO's is going to have to happen in the future.

  • Comment number 56.


    In order to take my point as valid you should read my argument in totality not just reference one example. You have mischaracterised and diluted my argument purely to suit your own point. I really must ask, that if you have been playing and watching rugby for as long as you have and never seen a referee intervene in a fight whether you're confusing union with tag.

    Indeed, why should I provide examples over the last 25 years? Just because that's the amount of time you've had experience of rugby? What if someone has been playing and watching for 50 years - shall I provide 50 examples in order to convince them? How about I provide examples since 1845? I said above and I will say again I will not do anyone else's research for them - the evidence for everything I argued and not just the point I made above, which is actually ancillary to the issue, is clear, unambiguous and irrefutable.

    Even one example can provide a test-case. Thus, logically, all I would need is one example to prove my point. The onus is on you - who disagree with me - to find evidence since you're the one to disagree with me. Why should I be the one to provide evidence - even though I have plenty of it - the person seeking to change the status quo is the one who needs to provide evidence. Fortunately for my argument, I stress again, there are thousands of examples I can provide and that some people haven't taken the time to study them while still mischaracterising my own studies is deeply frustrating.

    If you had read my point in full you would know that I have not built my case simply around referees breaking up fights - yet again I am forced to repeat myself because responses have not read the totality of my argument. This list is not exhaustive:

    1. If there is a fight all it will take is a stray fist, even if the referee is standing on the sidelines.
    2. If there is an errant tackle
    3. If there is a lunatic who runs on to the pitch because they disagree with the referees decisions as per David McHugh in 2002
    4. If the referees positioning is poor
    5. Female capacity to resist and recover from physical trauma is less than males.

    With all of the above there are thousands of examples: from A-rated medical journals, through video evidence, through opinions of experts.

    I don't get some vicarious thrill from saying the above. I don't say it because I have an agenda against women, for all you guys know I could be a woman. I don't say it because I'm trying to antagonise people for selfish reasons. I say it because I care passionately about rugby, its character and its heritage.

  • Comment number 57.

    I think the main problem people have with your point is that you're so adamant in proving it. Someone without an agenda against women wouldn't be defending their case with such vehemence two days later.
    I have to say that most referees are far smaller than players, but rugby, particularly at the highest level has operates with a great deal of interacted respect between the players and the referee. I've watched low level games where players and supporters have entered the field of play to remonstrate with a referee and wouldn’t drop the subject for the entire game (although the referee was right), which is bad enough. If this were to happen re a female ref, imagine the social shame knowing that you have used your masculinity in such an underhand way to intimidate a woman. In the macho sport world that you crave (see your second paragraph) and perhaps with particular reference to rugby, some sort of chivalric code exists, if not for the better, than to uphold traditions at least. Women may be figures to be left in the kitchen or the bedroom as you vehemently deny you believe, but your comments suggest that you do, if not outwardly then that is your underlying tone. With that in mind, which idiot wants to be known as the one who abused a female referee? At low level you will be ever reminded of your conduct, at professional level you will be vilified in the press.
    I would like to point out that most females I know from playing rugby tend to be a lot more vicious than the men, hey work harder at progressing in a sport that society tells them they mustn’t. Perhaps some of your A-grade medical journals could find something that aligns the balance of hormones in those who play rugby (both male and female) to ascertain the mentality that the average rugby player has. I do not mean this point as an insult, but a genuinely scientific question as rugby players both male and female seem to conduct themselves in a similar manner both on and off the pitch.
    What I am coming to in a round about way is that a female rugby referee isn't going to be some airhead with hair extensions and fake tan, rather a committed sportsperson with large experience of the game. They will be someone who has played rugby at numerous levels and will understand it. By your admission that contact sport is the last realm of the Neanderthal, then by all stereotyping means, men should be banned from wearing pink and watching Bridget Jones' diary. Of course, in the majority men are physically stronger than women, but would any of England's elite squad be as fit as Jessica Enis? or run as fast as Cambell-Brown? The promotion of female referees isn't to say that my mum and gran will be refereeing, nor my girlfriend or sister as they would not be suitable as not only are they not qualified, but they have absolutely no interest in becoming so. Perhaps you think that that will be the case. I am 6'2, have a six days per week fitness regime and understand all the rules and laws of rugby, but I would be an awful referee. A referee needs to have physical prowess as much as a teacher does. Just as an aside, what would your say be on a weedy 5’0, 7 stone man becoming referee? It seems that in your eyes they would have an automatic right over a 6’5”, 16 stone woman.
    I am not entirely getting at you Eblana, I believe your points to be valid and from the head as well as the heart, but others have just as much right to rebuke your arguments as you do to say them. I mainly want to raise my own points and support other arguments, but the manner of the blod seems to be a question and answer session between you and the world! I can see where you are coming from. Men do wish to have some sanctuary and there does exists a plan of double standards on all fronts of discrimination, but if the RFU appoint referees for the wrong reason the fault with lie with them, not the game of rugby in general nor the female referees themselves.
    I also address spicy mchaggis who assumes that no female has ever played rugby. When I first started playing rugby aged 7, girls played too and that’s nearly twenty years ago. My hometown club has a women’s team, many of whose players are better than I was or ever will be.
    Also Elbana, you mean ‘sex’ not ‘gender’. Gender is a social assignment that can be changed regarding identity. Indeed, if one prepossesses all the social and physical outer attributes of the opposite sex then it is modern sociopsychological reasoning to assign that gender to them. Gender is saying ‘you play with Barbie, I’ll play with action man’, sex is the stuff between your legs.
    The main point here, that hydroxymoron touches upon time and again is that referees will be tested and trained, Elbana, you seem to think that female officials don’t exist and that there is some Darwinian reason for this. Women want to referee, otherwise this wouldn’t be an issue and as long as they get there on merit then no issues should exist and their ability should never come into question.

  • Comment number 58.

    you could say the same for coaching, i don't know how far down the leagues you'd have to go to find a female coach, but i don't think that the sport is preventing them from progressing as coaches. i can't see a rugby union preventing someone from reffing a match they're capable of just because of their sex. i have no idea how you can call for referee's who haven't officiated in the magners league to officiate the world cup! one step at a time

  • Comment number 59.

    Female refs are good and should be evaluated at the same standard as male refs. simples

    John - Why is 'sports nation' not on the iplayer??? any rugby player who would have wanted to watch it last night was out training!

    Sports Wales is on the iplayer, I expected to be able to catch up with it today.

    Hope you can help,


  • Comment number 60.

    I have to admit that I am slightly disturbed at the way that this discussion has progressed.

    There have been a number of good points made but I think one thing has been missed (even by our esteemed Mr Beattie) - The choice of the individual.

    If a woman wants to referee in the top flight then it is her choice and she should be given the support and the backing to referee at that level, obviously dependent that she has the ability! All referees understand that there is a level of risk (Male or Female) - providing that level of risk is accepted what is the problem?

    Eblana along with the many responses that were ellicited has obviously put the cat among the pigeons. But it has all missed the point that the choice of the individual should be the top priority.

    One thing that I would contest with Eblana (Don't want to enter into discussion) is the following statement:-

    "5. Female capacity to resist and recover from physical trauma is less than males."

    I would be very interested in understanding the background of this as this is very different from my experience and my knowledge of anatomy. Women are far more able to cope with pain with men and the recovery from injury isn't covered by gender but by the ability of the body to repair itself. This will be totally different between each individual!

    Also I have been refereed by a woman and I would never argue with her as she scare the **** out of me! She is a good friend as well :)

  • Comment number 61.

    Hopefully it will be realised that anything I said that appeared offensive was said either in parenthesis or in paraphrasing the thoughts of another... if not, I won't argue, I just thought I made a valid point or two!
    John's blogs always created debate and discussion, which, regardless of which side of the fence you sit, everyone always wants a say.

  • Comment number 62.

    There is absolutely no reason why not. I'm a qualified referee and we are lucky at our club to have a great referee co ordinator and some great referees, one of whom is a young 16 year old girl. I watched her recently refereeing an U16 youth game. No issues, no bad calls, the respect of the players was one thing, but also the coaches from both sides. All in all a first class performance that I fear I can only aspire to.

    The best bit was listening to both captains start every interaction with... "But Sir!" realising their mistake but not having worked out the correct term of address, panicking, swearing which compounded the panic and just disappearing into a gibbering heap. The referee had so much more composure.

  • Comment number 63.

    "John's blogs always created debate and discussion, which, regardless of which side of the fence you sit, everyone always wants a say."

    At most, they do create debate. I only wish there was more input on John's part, as someone who had/has a relatively intimate association with the sport. Otherwise, a random word generator could inspire a good deal of debate too. Perhaps that is the nature of blogs, to post musings rather than substantiated thoughts. If so, it's a pity, maybe even a waste.

  • Comment number 64.

    Clearly we need black female one-legged communist wheel chair bound referees....

  • Comment number 65.


    I now this is rather 'off topic' but I'm quite confused and distressed to have read ( that the 6 Nations may be changing into 'The X Factor' with public phone-in votes determining the outcome of match results?!...

    It's not April 1 so I'm particularly puzzled.

    If this is for real, I propose we begin to lobby against this utter mince.

    PS - Scotland, Italy and England will win their games tomorrow...

  • Comment number 66.


  • Comment number 67.

    Should we have female refs in rugby?

    First we pander to woman, then age, then colour, then religion.

    So what will end up with, a Black Female 60yr old Muslim refereing the rugby?

    For what reason?

    Whats the point? All to prove to someone you dont have a problem? Get over yourself.

    Next you will be saying it doesnt matter what the final score is as its the taking part that counts!!

    Are there no characters/backbones left in this country?

    P.S. Scotland have no hope this 6 Nations, our backs are poor and now DeLuca is included! Also Nikki Walker isnt the sharpest tool in the shed.
    SRU invest in the backs at grass roots!

  • Comment number 68.

    @65 - It looks like this has come from a blog which offers a slightly offbeat look at rugby. I don't think there's anything more to read into it than that and (I hope) certainly not something we need to be concerned about.

    This has been a lively debate with some very strong views being put across. Greater input/comment from JB would have been welcome.
    I don't think that the issue of female refs is trying to 'prove to someone you don't have a problem' as Redbud suggests. I think that JB is trying to get across the fact that a qualified referee is a qualified referee and that should be the end of it.
    In my experience (which is admittedly limited) the best refs are instantly forgettable, mainly because they have let the game flow and controlled it well. They tend to only be remembered for making constantly poor decisions and allowing poor discipline from the players which is as a result of the referee's lack of game control.
    Referees should be picked on ability, and ability alone. If they are good enough, let them do the job. Very few people discuss the referee after the match, unless they have done a bad job. Whereas analysis of the players will continue long into the night as to who played well and who did not.
    Anyway, it's 4th Feb 2011, the beer is in the fridge and the fun starts again tonight.
    To all rugby supporters, may your team play to the best of their ability, may friendships old and new continue to flourish amongst the rugby community and may the best team win.


  • Comment number 69.

    @68 - i actually agree with what you say, i just think that to intentionally instate female refs would be more about making a PC statement than having rugbys interests at heart.

    This article seems more about everyone letting everyone else know you dont have a problem with women refs.

    Good on everyone.

    If i had a daughter that wanted to be a ref then i would say go do it. They dont need to be patronised about it.

    I like what John Beattie does for sport in Scotland and not just the rugby, but some of the BBC blogs/opinions, not just his, are rather wet.

    John said "Perhaps there are no women high enough up the refereeing ladder but that needs to change.

    So, there we are, I think women should officiate at the Six Nations and World Cup."

    I would say, why does it NEED to change? Why SHOULD they officiate the 6 nations?

    I dont get that.

  • Comment number 70.

    Some interesting arguments, some valid, some not, and some downright bigoted. I am a recently qualified female referee and have been coaching minis for several years now. I am pleased to say that when I am refereeing the children, most of the feedback I get is very positive which is pleasing as it proves that females can referee just as well as our male counterparts. And thats not because just I sit down with the law book as my bedtime reading but because I have immersed myself into the rugby world. I have been watching the game for 20 years, I have coached my sons and I have recently taken up playing too. Yes, I get a few surprised looks from visiting teams but some of the coaches/referees I have seen on the minis circuit have been absolutely shocking!
    I do recall one occasion however, when a parent coach turned up to a fixture late and the match was already underway. Obviously doubting my ability and shocked to see a female referee, at the next stoppage he took his whistle out of his pocket, marched onto the pitch and announced that he was taking over!
    If a woman wants to become a rugby referee, she will be fully aware of the environment she is getting herself into. She will expect the swearing, the sweat and mud and will probably know the words to most of the songs in the bar afterwards! You grow a very thick skin and a lot of the banter you just let wash over you. I don't try to be one of the lads but keep my distance and let the men do what men like to do.
    I think the argument for female referees is not a case of being politically correct, but of whether a competent female referee would be accepted in a predominantly male world. If she is qualified and capable, I see no problem. We need more referees full stop.
    Oh and when I referee, I tell the players that "Sir" is just fine!

  • Comment number 71.

    It must have been quite funny to watch that disgruntled parent coach being sent back to the touchline with his tail between his legs. It made me think of the pushy dad character from the Fast Show some years ago who was always forcing his children to do things they didn't want to do and end up looking like a fool himself.

  • Comment number 72.

    The RFU has been promoting women referees for a while now. There are five on a fast track scheme, approximately regionally distributed. There are two on the international panel as highlighted above.

    If they are good enough, then they should be given the opportunities.

    I agree with the points above. Women referees may command more respect amongst players than male counterparts, especially when they are more skilled at the job.


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