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“Great to be back” – James Child reacts as he returns to rugby league

James Child

Following the news that former Super League referees James Child, Ian Smith and Matt Thomason are returning to the sport, many key figures in the game have reacted.

The RFL’s Head of Match Officials, Phil Bentham, appointed the three as ‘Match Officials Reviewers’, who will give support and coaching to current officials.

In addition, Andy Smith, an experienced touch judge, has been appointed a new full-time coach in the Match Officials Department, with a focus on touch judges.

What will James Child do at The RFL?

Child will be part of the Match Officials Reviewers who are tasked with analysing the performances of officials every week, providing advice in an attempt to improve standards across all professional competitions.

Speaking on the appointment of Child, along with Smith, Thomason and Smith, Head of Officials Bentham said: “I am delighted that Andy has joined our department full-time, and that James, Ian and Matt are also back in the team.

“All four bring a wealth of experience, covering many match officials’ roles, and will provide invaluable feedback and coaching to our officials.”

Speaking on X, formerly Twitter, Child expressed his delight at returning to The RFL fold as he said: “Great to be back as a consultant Match Officials Reviewer offering coaching points to the RFL Referees and hopefully contributing in a small way to a positive, constructively-critical and professional environment.”

Ian Smith, who has been very vocal about officiating on Twitter recently, said: “I care deeply about the referee’s dept and our great sport and hopefully I can give a bit more back under Phil’s leadership..”

He also said: “I have spent the last couple of weeks with them and their work ethic, professionalism and desire to improve is fantastic to see and under Phil Bentham’s leadership I believe they will flourish and improve across the board.”

However, it seems that his social media role will have to change, admitting: “It wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss decisions on here before I’ve met and spoken with the referee and got his opinion on it.”

How the game reacted to James Child’s return

James Child, wearing pink referee's kit, makes a decision.

Credit: Imago Images

The appointments of Child and Smith in particular were met with plenty of positivity amongst those within the game, with former England international and current York Knights assistant coach Paul Cooke adding: “Great news for rugby league today as James Child and Ian Smith return in roles to the referees department.

“Very smart move by Phil Bentham. Best of luck to you both.”

In addition, Robert Hicks said: “Brilliant to see James Child, Ian Smith, Matt Thomasson & Andy Smith return to the MO Dept. Our officials do a sterling job but need help & guidance. For them to have the ability to listen learn & use the experience of former officials is vital to their long term progression.”

Hicks, a former RFL referee, is now the RFL’s Director of Operations and Legal.

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