Caerleon junior rugby referee almost quit over threats

By Kate Morgan
BBC Wales sports news correspondent

media captionWhat happened when Gareth Needs was threatened?

A junior rugby referee said he has considered giving up after being "threatened" both on and off the pitch.

Gareth Needs said a recent Sunday morning match turned "hostile" after a coach had to be dragged away from him by a group of players.

He added he would like the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) to give cameras to referees so if they are abused they can record video evidence.

The WRU said poor behaviour pitch-side is "not tolerated".

"It was a difficult time... I did sit down and thought 'do I want to do this again?'," said Mr Needs.

He described how a coach squared up to him on the pitch before approaching him after the match to warn him he would "see him in the car park" later.

As a qualified WRU level two referee he says he officiates under-12s matches up to senior second teams and says he is often officiating without any touch judges or assistants.

"As a referee, on our own, it is hard to see anything and if I make a decision, I make a decision" he added.

image captionCaerleon now has a respect the referee campaign

The alleged incident involved a coach of the opposition side at a Caerleon under-15s match near Newport.

It has prompted the club to launch its own "respect the ref" campaign.

It includes zero tolerance on swearing, no negative comments towards the referee or linesmen and calls for players to be replaced if they repeatedly misbehave.

The club now sends a contract to their opposition to sign ahead of the match.

Andrew Grant, who has been playing and coaching at Caerleon RFC for years, said unless addressed, abuse is "going to scare people away from the game".

"I've never seen anything like it before," he added.

The under-15s coach said another referee now "refuses to do junior rugby at all".

He is a qualified level one referee himself but would only do it as a last resort.

He said the club needed to act "to keep the referees coming and keep them wanting to do it".

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Team captain Aneurin, 14, said: "Some of the team were angry with the opposition coach for stopping the game."

He said the abuse was mainly from parents watching on the side-lines.

The hooker added behaviour like that was "putting people in danger, especially the ref".

In a statement, the WRU said it had "a strong reputation for upholding and promoting good behaviour" and poor behaviour pitch-side is "not tolerated".

"Initiatives like the one Caerleon are wholeheartedly encouraged and strongly supported," it said.

'We are winning'

"Our role is to educate and empower the army of volunteers which administers mini and junior rugby throughout the country, giving them the practical tools, the right philosophy and language to affect positive behaviour and we continue to do this diligently, proactively, regularly and as efficiently as possible."

It added "the other weapon in our armoury" is to sanction individuals, clubs, players or teams "where necessary and appropriate".

"This campaign to promote positive behaviour continues and is an integral part of our everyday work throughout Welsh rugby," the statement said.

"We believe we are winning and that we have a game we can be proud of, but any example of poor behaviour is too much and contrary to the very positive values we seek to promote."

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