Referees might make the occasional wrong call but on the whole they do a brilliant job at allowing the sport to flow and maintaining discipline, which is a talent in a sport that is as fast and physical as rugby league with a prime example being Liam Moore keeping a lid on Friday’s clash between St Helens and Leeds Rhinos.
The sport has recently seen a number of referees hang the whistle up with James Childs calling time after the World Cup in the autumn and Robert Hicks transitioning into a role with the RFL.
It’s also the case that Steve Ganson, formerly the head of the match officials, has been on leave since early this year after the RFL opened an internal review into him back in January over an unspecified matter.
The former Super League official who oversaw the likes of the 2004 and 2009 Grand Finals has acted as Head of Match Officials at the RFL dealing with the likes of Catalans Dragons owner Bernard Guasch’s famous comments after the 2021 Grand Final pertaining to Liam Moore’s performance as St Helens defeated the Dragons.
Questions over what is going on in the RFL refereeing department have been asked among fans but Sunday saw an opportunity for RFL Chief Executive Officer Tony Sutton to shed some light on the situation.
Sutton was a guest on BBC Radio Manchester’s sports show and was asked if somebody had stepped into Ganson’s role.
“Yeah, there is someone fulfilling that role at the moment and they work under the area for the RFL,” Sutton explained.
“That is run by Dave Rotherham, as the chief on-field officer, and he’s been in that role for a number of years.”
Sutton provided no further update on the investigation or the reasons why Ganson wasn’t at the helm of the Match Officials department.
On recruitment, he continued: “In terms of recruitment, we are looking at the pyramid. We are looking at entry into the pyramid and progression through that pyramid for match officials.
“We hold a lot of match officials’ courses, and then, post-completion of those courses, there is a bit of a drop-off rate for people who then move on to actually move into officiating and then move through the officiating ladder.
“We are looking at that to make sure that that is as good as it can be. Some of these things are always linked out there, as they always are. For example, we have held a couple of campaigns into touchline behaviours and whether the standard of touchline behaviour feeds back into how many officials or how many junior officials stay on that pathway.
“So it really is a holistic look at that area of the game, but we give it a lot of attention and there’s a number of people, it’s one of our biggest departments in the RFL and one of our core areas of function as a governing body and we really, really work hard to try and make sure that’s as good as it can be.”
Sutton also explained that there is a desire to make the game more diverse and wider among the referees.
“There’s a wide pyramid of people coming into it. And the people coming into that officiating pathway are diverse. We want more female match officials, for example, coming into that pathway and moving all the way up and through to the highest elite level.”