Retiring Super League referee Gareth Hewer has spoken out about the increasing abuse officials are being subjected to, with the problem becoming greater at a grassroots level.
Hewer, who officiated the 2016 Challenge Cup Final, has spoken exclusively to Serious About Rugby League to document his reasons for leaving the sport, but to also draw attention to the increasing problem facing rugby league.
“The abuse is getting worse especially at the grassroots level,” Hewer said.
“This season, I’ve been appointed referee at the local leagues in Cumbria and I’ve been across to watch some of the matches.
“We’ve got young referees and some of the things I hear on the sidelines, it’s a bit much.
“At the end of the day, we are one of the stakeholders in the game as well as the players and we’re in a game where we’ve got to make split decisions
“It’s not always going to be favourable to your team – we’re the least popular department in the sport, but at the end of day, if we don’t have referees we don’t have a game.
“It’s not for everybody, you’ve got to be a special person and you’ve got to have thick skin and let things go over your head, you could get into an argument in every game you do.”
Hewer himself reveals the reason for him leaving rugby league.
“I changed circumstances at work, so I used to work shifts from Monday to Friday, but now I’m on 12-hour shifts working weekends, four on six off 12-hour shift pattern.
“It doesn’t work with rugby and living in Whitehaven in Cumbria my game days involve a lot more than the m62-based referees so it’s difficult.
“I’m only leaving because of work, because I’d love to continue refereeing.
“The current referees are quite a professional bunch of people – there’s a lot of commitment with training and game days.”