The RFL to start new season with just eight full-time match officials

A number of high profile referees have dropped out of the game in recent years with James Child being the latest after the World Cup and that’s left the sport in a perilous position.

The RFL saw what seemed like a huge string of departures of referees under Steve Ganson, something that has been noted of late with another former official, Richard Silverwood, having openly criticised Ganson.

Ganson has been Head of Match Officials but was reported as been stood down by The Examiner Live just over a fortnight ago and that prompted a series of tweets by Silverwood.

“Only 8 years too late,” he said of the news, “This bloke has made many officials walk away from something they love. A department run by fear. Whilst a referee he was the king of banter and mischief. Then when boss he would have people suspended for things he did himself.”

He went on to claim that Ganson has prompted the loss of “outstanding officials” as he added:

“The amount of outstanding officials that have left due to Ganson is unreal. You can’t lose experience just like that. Look after what you have properly. Not a big queue wanting to be officials. The sport needs top experienced officials to thrive.”

The RFL have now confirmed the number of full-time officials for 2023 and outlined the pyramid of other officials that sit underneath them.

Dave Elliot, senior match officials coach, outlined what the RFL’s men and women in the middle of the park will look like for the upcoming campaign.

“At the moment we have eight full-time match officials, we are looking at increasing this number in the next few weeks and months.

“Underneath that we have three ‘development’ officials who will train with us. They’re three young guys who are in full-time education that will train with the guys and be around the squad on a weekly basis. Basically they’re learning the trade.

“Beneath that are what we’ll class as 26-28 select groups so these are a combination of match officials who will sit in Championship, League One and academy. Also NCL and women’s Super League and the reserve league. These guys will sit underneath the full-time squad and get access to a lot of the things that we do and they’ll get coaching through the weeks as well.”

The officials in question are Tom Grant, Marcus Griffiths, Chris Kendall, Liam Moore, Liam Rush, Jack Smith, Ben Thaler and Joe Vella.

Whilst eight isn’t a huge number of officials and the fast-track style ‘development’ of three younger officials is occurring, Elliot was keen to point out the number of new referees entering the sport.

He reported that in 2022 the game added 366 new officials and has over 500+ active whilst a women’s and girl’s programme was flourishing.

One current official, Liam Moore, also added the exciting news that ref cams were set to return with 200 head cams being rolled out across the sport nationwide to act as a deterrent and also protection for referees from abuse.

The cameras were used in the NCL during part of the 2022 season and saw the number of referees suffering abuse decline, and obviously in the sad instance it does still happen the referee will have protection and evidence to punish the offending players.

Moore finished off by highlighting the statistic that Elliot providing regarding the number of officials entering the game, the issue simply being retainment of officials hence the campaign to help out referees across the country with the use of head cams.

Every single round one Challenge Cup game will see the match official wear a head cam so we shall get to see them in action next weekend.

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