Former Super League referee admits it ‘takes time’ to gain respect

Josh McAllister

Former Super League referee Ian Smith has spoken out after the recent abuse towards match officials in rugby league, admitting it ‘takes time’ to gain respect from players.

The 52-year-old took charge of his first top-flight game in 1999, holding the whistle until he retired in 2010. He also won the ‘Co-Operative Championship referee of the year’ in his debut year and 2000.

After last weekend’s Challenge Cup action saw 14 cards, including two reds, Smith told loverugbyleague exclusively that players can come across as disrespectful due to the pressure.

“I think there is lot of inexperienced officials in the game and they have got lots of potential but it takes time to get the full respect from players,” he said.

“Coaches and fans want refs to be perfect immediately but it takes time to improve on a consistent basis.

“I think players, like refs, are under pressure and pressure can bring on anxiety and players become more emotional and that can come across as disrespectful to refs from players.”

The RFL recently announced they will hold referee courses across the UK, including Warrington and Cumbria. Smith, who has also been involved as a video referee in 2009’s Four Nations, confessed it’s one of the hardest jobs in sport.

“It’s very difficult to be a ref but it’s a fantastic job and you have to be so focused and concentrate for 80 minutes and no matter what decisions a ref gives someone will not agree with you.

“Constant vile abuse towards referees does not attract new refs to the game. The more refs there are the harder the competition for Super League matches.”

Super League are currently yet to confirm a Chief Executive after Nigel Wood left his role at the end of 2017, with Everton FC Twitter account announcing Robert Elstone would be leaving the Premier League club for a move to rugby league.

The former referee Smith believes this vacant role isn’t helping the game both on a off the field.

“Lots of refs have left over the last two years which doesn’t help.

I think with the RFL not having a CEO and Super League not having a CEO it makes the game a bit rudderless so that creates negativity.”