Hints & Tips

New Referees

A few thoughts from those that have gone before you to help you in your first games as a County Referee.


Make a kit list, this will always consist of:

  • Refereeing Shirt (always take a spare or 2, teams may turn up in a kit you have never seen before)
  • Refereeing Shorts
  • Refereeing Socks
  • Boots (Maybe take a couple of pairs, weather can change all of a sudden!)
  • Whistle x2 (Whistles will break!)
  • Cards
  • Pencils
  • Something to write the score on
  • Jacket (Warm up-always stay warm)
  • Towel
  • Shower bag
  • After match clothes (usually Somerset tie, jacket, trousers, shirt)
  • Law Book
  • 2 watches

Always (ALWAYS) turn up with clean, pressed kit (including shorts) and clean boots.

First impressions count, so look the part.

Pack your bag as soon as your kit is ironed, that way you won’t be running around on Saturday looking for your socks/ whatever (you’re a referee now, not a player).

Keep a spare whistle in the glove box of your car, that way you will avoid the ultimate referee’s embarrassment of having no whistle: buy an Acme Thunderer for your whistle – no other will do.

Get a decent stopwatch, avoiding those where the controls sit proud of the face, otherwise players will bump into you and stop it by accident ! Always try and wear 2, then for whatever reason you will always make sure you end up with the right time!

Going to a match

Aim to arrive at least 1 hour before scheduled Kick Off, some games I would even think about 1 hour 30 minutes at the higher levels. Allow for extra time to get to the club, it is always better to arrive early then late! If you have never been to a club before then make sure you know where you are going before you leave. Take the number of the clubhouse with you then you can call if delayed unexpectedly by traffic.

If you do arrive late then make sure you find both captains and rearrange the kick off time, there is nothing worse than rushing around!

Upon arrival/ getting things organised

Appear confident when you arrive: if you aren’t familiar with the clubhouse, ask firmly and confidently for the referees changing room.

Before changing, find the dressing rooms (home team first): if the door is shut, knock and wait: if no reply, knock again and go in. Introduce yourself to the captain, you have some information to impart to him, and you need to get some from him.


1)      has he got 15 players ? after a while you will cease to be amazed how many ‘good’ 2nd XVs turn up without 15 players, especially away from home.
2)      has he got any substitutes ?
3)      has he got an experienced front row ? plus a fourth (not necessarily a sub, they may be playing 2nd row)
4)      has he got a touch judge ? if not, but he has got substitutes, tell him to appoint one as the touch judge (don’t ask, tell): find out if they will need instruction on what to do.
5)      Will the team come back in after warm up for a final ‘bonding session’ ?

It is not your responsibility to ‘even up’ if sides have different numbers, but suggest it if say, 12 against 15.

Be authoritative, but approachable: answer any questions clearly, making sure the skipper has heard both question and answer if from another player. Make sure that your language/ tone of voice / body language is positive (but not aggressive) – let them know that YOU are in charge, without being bolshie. This sort of thing comes naturally to teachers and policemen, the rest of us have to learn it.

After changing/ pre match

Inspect the pitch, including flags, lines and post protectors. If you are unhappy with any aspect of the pitch, find the home skipper immediately and inform him, telling him what you want done to resolve the problem. If this means a delay, inform away skipper.

Ask both captains what time they want their team brief, this will consist of a front row chat, this is very important as it is very much about safety, and always check the studs.

Make sure you warm up, there is nothing worse than not warming up.

If players are outside, warn teams when minimum 8 minutes to kick off: if they want to go back inside, tell them they have 5 minutes.  Ensure both teams are on the pitch 3 minutes before kick off.

If you haven’t already done the toss then make sure this is done, most referees will make sure they do this before going out for the match but sometimes you cant do anything but.

Immediately before kick off, count players on the pitch.

The match

Make sure you get everything right first time, the first tackle, scrum and line-out – if you do, the rest of the match will be that much easier. Tell the players what you want . If you are not happy with the first scrum or line-out, re-set it until you are – this sends a clear message to the players that you know what is required, and that you expect them to do it properly.

After every score, get into the habit of totting it up on the card, then saying the score to yourself (‘that’s 17 – 3’), then you will avoid mistakes: this is easiest if you do it as a player prepares for a penalty/ conversion.

Make sure you enjoy the match!

Thank the touch judges – this is most important.

After the Game

No matter how badly you may have done, stay for a beer. Talk to the players, they will always give you solid advice, they will be happy that you have spoken to them!

Remember, Somerset Referees Society are your new team, and we stick together. Try and attend as many monthly Society meetings as you can, not just for the training. It is very easy to feel you are alone!! If nothing else you will realise that there is a huge support group there if you need it.