Abuse of match officials remains a major concern but leading Super League referee Liam Moore is hoping a new initiative with whistle manufacturers ACME will help ease the acute shortage.
A survey has revealed that only 34 per cent of qualified officials actually go on to referee more than three games, a statistic that came as a shock to the 25-year-old Moore, who turned down the chance of a career in law to become a full-time referee.
“Although we get some great young referees go through the training programme, we see many of them drop off the radar soon after,” said Moore, who has taken charge of the last two Challenge Cup finals.
“Some people just don’t like the role itself but some of it is down to abuse and there is no doubt touchline behaviour makes it more difficult to retain officials.
“The game needs more officials, some regions are being stretched every weekend, the summer conference league for instance, and it’s certainly a concern if we don’t get more officials.”
Abuse reached a low last week when referee Joe Stearne was allegedly assaulted by a player, forcing the National Conference game between Milford and Oulton to be abandoned.
“It’s extremely rare in rugby league but once is far too many,” Moore said. “It needs to be dealt with strongly in my opinion.
“I think as a game we should come together and I think it was interesting that the next day the club at Lock Lane clapped the match official onto the field as a sign of support and respect. Rugby league is really good at that.
“Joe was a bit shaken up and he’s got some bruises but he’ll be okay. The challenge for us as support coaches now is a mental one, getting him back onto the field to pick up the whistle.”
Moore was speaking at the launch of a partnership with ACME Whistles, who have been designing whistles for the last 150 years.
In its role of Official Whistle of RFL , the Midlands-based company will support officials with training courses and provide rewards in the shape of personalised whistles in silver and gold as they progress through their career.
Moore said: “We want to create different touch points to celebrate each referee’s journey in the sport – and at each junction create a moment of pride in their achievements.”
Ben McFarlane, marketing director at ACME Whistles, said: “We’ve worked with the RFL to create something really special, ranging from an engraved Matt Black ACME 58.5, through to a personalised gold referees whistle.
“We want referees to be proud of their contribution to rugby league – creating ambassadors for those coming into the sport to aspire to.”
Moore is hoping the game can tempt current or past players into officiating in a bid to ease the shortage and points to the example of his younger brother Aaron, who made his Super League debut earlier in the season and drew praise from Sam Tomkins for his performance at the Catalans-Leigh game on Monday.
We had Aaron Moore as our referee last night for the first time. It might have been an easy game to ref with it being so one sided but i thought he was really good.
His communication with the players for the full 80 was first class. Impressive for such a young referee
— sam tomkins (@samtomkins1) August 31, 2021
“Aaron is a great example,” he said. “Coming from a playing background at Salford academy and then North Wales, he has done remarkably well to get to grade one.
“It just shows the door is open to ex-players and current players. There’s a high turnover of players in the academy who don’t get professional contracts.
“I always say ‘have a go and, if don’t like it, you’ve not lost anything’ but many find they do enjoy it. Aaron did both for a spell and then decided to focus on refereeing and has not looked back.”