Luke acknowledged that several referees have been to talk to Warriors Supporters in the recent past and he wanted to make his visit different from theirs. So his subject for the evening was How has professionalism affected our view of referees.
A little bit about Luke himself. He was born in Pontypool and moved to Exeter when he was 3. He grew up with his Dad, who is on the Premiership Assistant Referee panel, refereeing rugby every weekend. Luke decided early on that he wasn’t going to be able to play rugby to the standard he wanted to so he joined the Devon Referee Society at 16. He made his way through the lower leagues and was contracted to the RFU in 2010. He has a 2 year contract which runs out in June.
He, like JP Doyle before him, stated that referees are human and therefore make mistakes. But it is about accountability and a just like a player, referees are benched if they under perform.
There are 7 fulltime professional referees backed up by part timers who have full time jobs to go back to during the week. They are the likes of Martin Fox, Dean Richards, David Rose and Tim Wigglesworth.
So what do the professionals do during the week?
There is also preparation for the next game, which for Luke is at Bath and he will have watched all the line outs, scrums etc etc for both teams from the last two games before he goes to The Rec.
Pre-season they go to clubs and work on scrums and breakdowns etc especially this season with the new IRB directives at scrumtime and other areas.
They work hard on accuracy all the analysis is aimed at improving accuracy. They are sent video clips from the IRB at regular intervals of games from around the world showing examples of areas to focus on and showing bad practice.
All the game reviews with their scores are available to all referees around the world by Tuesday night and that will be Monday night from next season.
Additionally referees are scored by both of the clubs involved in the weekend’s game in the lower leagues.
There is a constant focus on areas to improve there is an analyst that compiles a mass of statistics from every game such as the percentage of quick ball from rucks which has a base line of 3 seconds from ball going to ground and it leaving the scrum halves hands along with a pleather of other things such as percentage of scrums completed, scrums reset, basically all the things that can take the ball out of play are assessed.
Luke gets frustrated by some of the laws and Tony “Spreaders” Spreadbury often tells him “You can’t change the laws so deal with it!” and reffing isn’t a science it’s an art!
When Luke was reffing in the lower leagues his favourite place to go was Tynedale as it was a plane trip up and back and a two night stay and he just loves the club.
Refs have nothing to hide and they want to make sure that what they do is open to scrutiny from all those involved in rugby which includes the fans.
At scrumtime the focus for Luke is the tight head, are they bound correctly and straight. Next he looks at the loose head making sure their shoulders are above their hips and their angle is straight.
How many of us have to cope with the level of scrutiny that referees are subject to and the pressure it must exert.
Luke asked that WRSC make a donation to Cancer Research UK for his time and the proceeds from the evening of £225 will be sent to that wonderful cause.