We all welcomed the return of rugby last season, after the pandemic, with everyone involved in the game seeking to return to some form of ‘normality’. The season, of course, had its difficulties, especially with clubs struggling regularly to field teams and with us seeing too many Home or Away Walkovers across the leagues.

Even more disappointing has been too many instances of poor discipline both from players and those off the field, which go against everything that the game of rugby stands for. 

Thankfully, cases of foul play are rare. They have been replaced, however, by match official abuse by both players, coaches, and spectators, across all sections of the game (adult, youth and minis). In 2022-23, the adult and youth Discipline Committees dealt with a combined total of 25 cases of ‘Match Official Abuse’.

Without match officials, no game would take place. Why should anyone officiate at a match, if their decisions are always challenged or they are subjected to ‘back chat’ or worse from players, coaches, and spectators alike? 

Just as clubs struggle to recruit and retain players and to get their teams out each Saturday, so, too, does the County’s Society of Referees. Just as clubs sometimes have to field players to secure 15 players on the pitch who may not be quite up to the standard required, so, too, does the Society. Referees, like players, learn from the experience of ‘playing up’, and neither always get decisions correct when doing so. Unlike players, who will rarely, if ever, face abuse from their team-mates for their mistakes, referees must deal with it on an increasing frequent basis.

Match official abuse will not be tolerated. Both the Kent County RFU (through its adult and youth Discipline Committees) and the KSRFUR will aim to deal with cases, if proven, as severely as possible. 

We ask  clubs to do their utmost to ensure that their players, officials, coaches, and spectators treat match

officials with  respect and tolerance. To this end, we should be grateful if clubs would communicate our expectations widely, and  trust that, should clubs come across such poor behaviour, they will use the full force of their own Discipline Committees and Constitutions to weed out the perpetrators and sanction them, including, if necessary, terminating their memberships.

The Executive Committee, working with the Discipline Committee Chairs and the KSRFUR, will monitor the position closely throughout the forthcoming season.

Nigel Fray – Hon. Secretary and Director of Governance,  Huw Gronow & Simon Corcoran – Joint Chairs of Adult Discipline Committee, Andy Gent – Youth Discipline, Alan Erskine –  Youth Chair, Dawn Waters – Mini Chair, David Oliver – COO of KSRFUR.