The Rugby Football League is launching a new partnership with ACME Whistles to keep more referees in the sport.
With just over a third (34%) of qualified officials staying to oversee more than three games, there has been a growing need to retain officials for a much longer period.
The new programme launched this week by RFL referees Ben Thaler and Liam Moore, will see support from ACME Whistles to celebrate referees from their entry into the sport, right through to the most decorated referees and ambassadors of the game.
“Although we get some great young referees go through the training programme, we see many of them drop off the radar soon after the course,” said Moore, who has officiated more than 100 professional matches.
“We, therefore, wanted to work with partners to celebrate, share and engage with referees at all levels to retain more talent across the country.”
To keep more referees on the pitch the RFL reached out to ACME Whistles, which has been designing and making the world’s best whistles for the last 150 years, to become the Official Whistle of RFL.
The new partnership will support the hundreds of referees coming through RFL training courses each year with additional layer of expert advice, content and support.
Each of the referees going on to officiate three games will also be presented with their own ACME 558 whistle, the whistle of choice in rugby league, in recognition of their achievement.
Moore added: “We want to create different touchpoints to celebrate each referee’s journey in the sport – and at each junction create a moment of pride in their achievements.”
This recognition will continue throughout their involvement in the sport, with RFL referees receiving progressively more prestigious personalised whistles as their career reaches 100, 200, 300 and even 400 games.
Ben McFarlane, marketing director at ACME Whistles, added; “We’ve worked with the RFL to create something really special, ranging from an engraved Matt Black ACME 58.5, through to a personalised gold referees whistle.
“We want referees to be proud of their contribution to rugby league – creating ambassadors for those coming into the sport to aspire to.”
The partnership will also celebrate inspirational stories throughout the year, building to a yearly awards evening honouring referees from community to professional level.
Simon Topman, ACME Whistles’ managing director added; “Ever since Joseph Hudson invented the referee’s whistle in 1884, we have looked to help officials and umpires across a range of sports – and this new partnership with the RFL is yet another step to keep more refereeing talent in rugby league
“We hope referees will see this new partnership as a recognition and thanks for every evening and weekend they have given to the sport. After all, without the hundreds of referees out there, the sport we love wouldn’t be possible.”
Steve Ganson, the RFL’s Head of Match Officials, said: “Thanks to ACME Whistles for this innovative partnership which celebrates the achievements of match officials.
“We put a huge amount of work into recruitment with our Referees Societies, which have received fantastic backing from the CreatedBy scheme linked to RLWC2021, but the statistics underline the difficulties we still have in retaining those officials – and why that should be a concern for everyone in the game. It’s great that ACME Whistles are supporting us in tackling that issue.”