Liam Moore urges fans to be mindful of referee abuse as top Super League official speaks out

George Riley
Liam Moore, Franklin Pele sending off, Liam Watts sending off

Ask yourself if you could do that job, and if the answer is ‘no’ then maybe give the referee a little bit more breathing room and a bit more understanding.”

Leading Super League referee Liam Moore has urged fans to be mindful of the impact of abusing the sport’s match officials, as rugby league bids to recruit more refs into the sport.

The World Club Challenge referee has opened up on his own toughest moments in the role, how the group of elite officials deal with the constant scrutiny that accompanies their job, and why he thinks there should absolutely not be a requirement for referees to give interviews after a match explaining their decisions.

“I don’t think there is a place for referees coming out after a game and answering questions, I don’t think that’s right,” said Moore.

“A lot of things are said in the heat of the moment, a lot of things need to be dissected. So for a referee to come straight out after a game to either explain a decision or answer questions, for me that wouldn’t be appropriate. Either for the referee or for the game itself, I don’t think anybody would really want that, certainly as referees I wouldn’t. 

“There is a fine line between trying to hang people out to dry in the media and wanting them to be dropped. If we dropped every single referee after one error then we wouldn’t have any referees left.”

In a wide-ranging interview given to the mental fitness charity State of Mind Sport, Moore discusses the backlash to the controversial try he awarded to Jake Wardle in Wigan’s historic win over Penrith Panthers in February, and explains how he and his colleagues deal with the mental impact of the incessant abuse that they receive each week from fans and online.  

“People say you have to have a tough skin to be a referee – and that is absolutely right but I think the talking part of it is the key,” says Moore.

“Don’t bottle up your feelings, don’t say everything is okay if it is not. Share with people how you feel. Referees are human as well, we are not emotionless creatures that go out on to a field. Everyone has those feelings and doubts. Talking for me is absolutely critical.

“You have got to be mentally strong to shut the noise out. You have to try and distance yourself and just remember it is people behind keyboards who you have never met before and you are putting a lot of thought and impact on their words.

“I try to keep a distance and be strong-minded enough to ignore that and focus on the job which a lot of the time isn’t easy. You have to make difficult decisions that won’t please a lot of people so you have to have the courage of your convictions. 

“Ultimately we are the people in the middle who are the bad cop, have to get the cards out and make tough, difficult decisions.  We have a role to play. Referees don’t go away in the off season and suddenly come back and make a load of rules up of how they want the game to look like!” 

Moore has also revealed how refereeing has helped him lose over two stone in weight, and describes what it is that keeps the officials coming back for more at times when it can feel the world is against them.

“It is the adrenalin rush, it is addictive, it is making decisions, working with players, managing your way through a game. It is the flashpoints and it is being in the middle of seeing some great tries, classic games, big hits up close – it is absolutely the best seat in the house.

“It can be lonely sometimes when you have to make a big decision and it’s not very popular. But the bit I love is the adrenalin, the blood that pumps through your body when you run out a massive game, on a Good Friday, Grand Final or Challenge Cup Final. That’s what keeps me coming back.”

SOM Talks: The Referees is available now from all major podcast platforms