Hampshire Rugby Union Referees' Society was founded in 1936 and serves the refereeing needs of around 100 Clubs, Universities, colleges and Schools in the County of Hampshire We provide well-trained, enthusiastic and competent referees. Each season this involves up to 2,000 appointments to games in Hampshire, as well 'Exchanging' referees with other Societies throughout England, and sometimes overseas. During the 2016-17 season, we had over 100 active Society referees and Assistant Referees, at all levels from RFU Premiership & National Panel, through to Hampshire Youth rugby and more social Merit and Vets matches. All matches are just as important as the others, to a referee.
Now affiliated to the RFU, Hampshire Rugby Referees has refs ranging in age from 18 to over 70 years. Last season four stalwart referees did 60 + matches but on average most of us do 20-25 matches each season. We cater for all levels of fitness, ability and commitment, and match referees to suitable games for them. Some members travel far and wide, others prefer to stay close to home - whatever their wish we will appoint accordingly. We cover RFU Men's League matches on Saturday's, and some Sunday morning (Youth), Sunday afternoon (Colts & Ladies) and mid-week (Schools, Colleges & Universities). We are a large friendly group of rugby lovers and joining us could give you enormous enjoyment
The Society organises the Training and Development courses for our Referees & their Assessors / Coaches at all levels. With the RFU we can organise training days for those who want to referee at their own clubs for adult, or junior games.
In the very early days it is recorded that matches were played without the services of a referee – how did they manage do I hear you ask ? Teams relied on their captains to settle any disputes during games but they moved on soon and umpires were allocated so assist the skippers.In 1893 the first International Laws were framed and not long after this referees were appointed to oversee games. As a point of interest a Mr Morgan who hailed from Hampshire took control of the first international match played by Wales against England – unfortunately there are no records of this gentlemen in the county archives.
It was some time later in 1936 that the Hampshire Rugby Union Referees’ Society was founded. The Secretary at time of the inauguration was Graham Fulljames who served in that role until the society was disbanded in 1939 due to the outbreak of the Second World War. When peacetime broke rugby resumed, the Hampshire RFU asked Rex Crook to organise a Referees’ Society on its behalf; so this may go someway into explaining the unique and close relationship that has always existed between the two bodies.
In the 1946/47 season which was the first full season after the enforced break the RFU restarted the County Championship and asked Hampshire to nominate two referees – they were Rex Crook and Dudley Kemp (grandfather of Dr Simon Kemp the RFU's current Chielf Medical Officer). Both gentleman refereed at the occasional first class club match as well as the county championship, it is documented that Dudley Kemp took control of a Leicester vs. Barbarians match in the 1950’s dressed most smartly in his blazer !
Colin Harrison was the next star of the county and refereed several county championship and first class matches plus an England Trial at Falmouth when in atrocious conditions he upset the purists by permitting the teams to change shirts at half-time. Roy Jones and Dudley Kemp were also on the County panel at this time and handled county games during this period. By 1969 the society had grown to roughly 80 referees and appointments totalled somewhere in the region of 1500 per season. It was in 1969 that a young man aged just 19 joined us and at the grand old age of 20 Clive Norling became Hampshire’s representative on the county panel joining Norman ‘Spud’ Murphy and Roger Parker who were also refereeing at the national level.
During the years that followed Clive realised all of his early potential and went on to become a hugely respected member of the International Panel – we are hugely proud to claim Clive Norling as one of ours. In more recent times Jeff Rees and Len Pilling have represented Hampshire in County Championship and John Player Cup matches. It was then decided to change the refereeing structure – the County panel was abolished and in its place the RFU appointed an RFU Panel and an A List. The Panel supplied referees capable of controlling games levels 1 to 4 whilst the A list incorporated referees at levels 3-6. Jeff Rees continued to be a member of the RFU Panel and continued on there for many a year to come. It is rumoured that Jeff is was one of the longest serving members of the national panels. Colin Marshall and Chris Thomas represented Hampshire on the RFU ‘A’ list at this time and it became obvious that Hampshire back then, as it does now. punches well above its size in match officating.
Kevin Ricketts burst on the scene in the 1980s and rapidly progressed up the ladder eventually becoming a member of the top six referees group. Kevin handled a Under 21 match over the border in Wales against New Zealand and also went on tour to Argentina to officiate in the latter stages of their cup competition. Meantime RFU League Rugby swept into dominance in 1987 and soon became the main feature of rugby in Hampshire. In the late eighties. Mike Gill (still refereeing Hampshire League matches) made it to the ‘A’ list handling much of the new league rugby week in and week out. Gareth Morgan received the honours of becoming an RFU referee in the early nineties and was making excellent progress but had to step down due to work commitments.
With the introduction of League Rugby it was decided that the matches required experienced touch judges so an RFU Touch Judges Panel was formed in the 1990s. Hampshire were honoured in having six on this initial panel: Tim Pratt, Peter Topham, Chris Thomas, Terry Mortimore, Jeff Rees and Mike Roberts. Alan Ankers joined Chris Thomas on the tough judge panel in 1998, whilst Stuart Terhegge who joined us from the Midlands in 1997 and is an IRB Assistant Referee. With Paul Burton & Roger Bailieff on the Premiership AR Panel and Tim Bailey, Mike Priestley & Jeff Highcock on the National AR Panel that tradition is in good hands. Hampshire has also had some fine referees who have represented the county at the South East Group and South West Group level over the last few years. Plus the grass roots of the game have been (and still are) fortunate to have some great Hampshire personalities on and off the field as referees over the past sixty odd years. We hope we contributed a great deal to the game in Hampshire and long may it carry on.