WRU threaten sanctions of the 'utmost severity' over abuse of referees

The Welsh Rugby Union have threatened sanctions of the ‘utmost severity’ in a bid to clamp down on abuse of officials at grassroots level.

In a message sent out to clubs, WRU Community Director Geraint John also insisted that ‘we should not let the poor behaviour of a minority jeopardise the future of our game’.

The note, sent out three weeks after the start of the league season, read: “It must be recognised that poor behaviour will have a detrimental impact on recruitment and retention of match officials, players and could also have a negative impact on people joining our great game as we seek to grow an evolve.

“We all have a duty and a responsibility to everyone involved in the game to provide a safe environment for all.

“I would like to ask you to especially support our referees who, like many volunteers, give up their time to officiate at matches.

“There is a realistic prospect that poor behaviour will deter match officials from attending our clubs and officiating at games.

“Those officials must be protected and the rugby community must understand that any abuse of officials will be met with severe sanctions both to the club and players.

“Clubs, their members and players have a responsibility to ensure any behaviour of this sort is removed and eradicated from the game.

“Please manage your touchline and please educate your coaches, officials and players at all levels of the game.

“By way of this notification, the WRU Discipline Committee is placing clubs on notice that any behaviour and conduct prejudicial to the game, any behaviour which is deemed detrimental to providing a safe environment for match officials, will be sanctioned with the utmost severity.

“We urge you all to consider our values and work together to promote good sportsmanship and the values of our game.

“Similarly, you all have a duty to create and sustain a safe and positive environment for all involved in the game.

“Club officials are wholly responsible for the safety of match officials during their time at the club and must ensure a safe and welcoming environment for the match official to conduct his/her duties.

“I would like to close by thanking you all for your continued support. Our clubs are the lifeblood of the gmae in Wales and the hard work that goes into clubs the length and breadth of Wales does not go unrecognised.

“My appeal is that we should not let the poor behaviour of a minority jeopardise the future of our game.”

The letter comes at the same time the RFU has voiced concerns over the rise in incidents relating to the abuse of an official below the professional level.

Their data shows that a third of referees have not taken charge of a game since it restarted after the pandemic and the lack of officials has led to the cancellation of matches.

“Since the restart of rugby when the pandemic restrictions eased there has been a growth in the reporting of incidents [of abuse of officials],” Mike Priestley, the chair of the Rugby Football Referees’ Union, told the Telegraph.

“It’s alarming. That’s the reason we wanted to make a stance early so we can get on top of the issue before it becomes a substantial problem.”

The most disturbing bans in the English game recently involve incidents were officials have been shoulder barged by players. Another case saw a 17-year-old referee claim that the coach of a team threatened to ‘smash [his] head in’.

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