Referee Appearance

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A Smart Referee.



The appearance of a referee is more important than a lot of people believe.

But it does!!!

What can go wrong?

By not making yourself as professional looking as possible a referee can give the impression that they either don't know, or don't care about the game that they are about to officiate.

Immediately they have given an angle that players, the coaches & spectators can complain about, or undermine their authority, before they have even started the game. This combined with any decisions that they don't believe are correct (and every game has a few) will allow the team to escalate it's frustrations to the referee far quicker than normal, because they already have no confidence in them, because of how they look.

Think of the referee as being your dentist, if you turned up and they didn't look professional, would you let them put their fingers in your mouth? And if you did, would you not be concerned about what else 'may be about to go wrong'? This is the same feelings that players, coaches & spectators have when a referee doesn't look the part.


The following tips are for how you should turn out, all tips assume that your kit fits you, if it doesn't (too big or too small) get it changed, it does matter!


It doesn't matter if you have long or short hair, or no hair at all, your head should be neat. If you have hair this means brushed and clean. If you have long hair, tie it up so that it doesn't flap about in your (or another players) face. If you have little or no hair, prepare it the same way you would if you were going for a job interview. Do not wear a hat, ever. If it's sunny and you are thin on top, put sun screen on, if it's cold and raining, tough, the players can't wear hats. If you are an assistant referee, a peaked cap may be acceptable, for one half, if it is known that the sun will be in your eyes for one half (after all you need to see the game).

Face/Facial Hair

have a clean face, no one wants to communicate with a person that has a dirty face.

If you shave for work, then shave. If you have a beard/goatee/stubble, then make sure it is presentable, presentable means you would be happy to be seen at a wedding with it like that.


Your shirts should be clean, ironed and folded in your bag. suggests that you put your shirts in a plastic bag to keep the ones you don't wear clean and folded.

If your shirt is getting old, faded or worn, get a new one. Players don't want to see that you have been refereeing for years, they want you to perform like you have been refereeing for years.

Try to avoid wearing long sleeve skins under a short sleeve shirt, whilst some are accepting of this look, others can be quite damning, it changes from Assessor to assessor, so if you want to avoid the trouble, just avoid this look.

Long sleeve skins under a long sleeve top is, of course, perfectly acceptable.


As shirts, clean, Ironed & folded is required. Try not to wear skins that extend below your shorts unless there is a good reason (i.e. modesty for children and/or ladies).


Your socks should match your shirt, if you have more than one shirt, you may need to have more than one pair of socks. Fully dark socks will go with anything, where as socks that have coloured tops will need to be matched.


Your boots need to be clean, mainly black and in good working order. suggests that if your boots are more than 2 seasons old you should seriously consider investing in a new pair, no matter how good you think they feel. This is more for your feet's health than appearance. appreciates that it is becoming more and more difficult to obtain black boots, if you find this difficult then try to still stick to dark colours, the makers logo's being white or bright is fairly well accepted now, providing they are not over the top.

ironed flat white laces on your black or dark boots are no longer an 'in thing'. Black laces are perfectly acceptable.

Before the game

Before is a difficult one, if you know that the place you are refereeing at doesn't have changing rooms or showers, turning up in official track suit, or a dark track suit if you do not have an official one, should be acceptable.

If your match is at a venue with showers & changing rooms then you have no excuse, you should turn up in the uniform supplied by your referee society/association & that should look smart too, ironed trousers & shirt, shoes, and tie if required.

You should always aim to be at a match at least 45 minutes before kick off.

After the game

Once the game is finished you should always take the time to talk to the captains & coaches for some 'friendly feedback'. If you can, give yourself a good 30 minutes to have a shower (where possible) and get dressed in your smart clothes (or tracksuit if no shower available), this will gives everyone time to calm down from the game and reflect a little more realistically on how things went.

Whilst in the changing room, or wherever you have gone, take the time, about 10 minutes, to complete a post match report. Standard post match report forms will be available on this Wiki soon. Even if you only have a note book the following points should be written down:

If you keep these together, over time you will be able to see how you are developing, and if there are any trends in your games that need addressing. Where available, you could discuss these trends with your assessor.

If you have a hostile coach, captain or player, listen to what they say, but don't engage them in a debate or try and justify yourself, providing they are not rude, they may have a valid reason for their frustrations, which after a bit of time, you may be able to reflect on more sensibly. Just take it in and politely disengage yourself from the conversation.

Never be against receiving criticism, you'll never learn anything if all you get is praise; don't be afraid to say thank you after you have had your chat, after all, they are helping you, even if what they say may seem harsh at the time.



Unlike Soccer (Association Football) the laws of Rugby Union do not stipulate which type of whilst you must use. However, there are only a few that are widely accepted as being durable enough, and good enough for the tones required.

They are all made by Acme:

Whilst other whistles are available, serious referees should be using one of the above.

Have a spare whilst in your pocket! (In case of falling over and jamming the first with mud, it happens).

Red & Yellow Cards

Try to avoid Red cards that are closer to luminescent pink, and yellow cards that are closer to lime green.

There are plenty of shops that sell cards for Association Football referees and these type are generally fine for the rugby ref, just check the colour. recommends taking the yellow card out of your supplied card wallet and putting it in your left pocket (Red goes in Right, they both start with R, so easy to remember). That way you are not fiddling for the yellow card when you need to use it (More professional looking), but the red card will take marginally longer to take out, giving you a little more time to think about it (If you have to give a red card, take your time and be clear about why).



If your society or association doesn't produce it's own scorecards has a selection that you might find useful here: Score Cards

Pencils recommends using the small type with the rubber on the end (Yeah, we know referees don't make mistakes, but just in case), these can be obtained from most golf shops or stationary shops. Carry three on you, one in your card wallet/pocket, and one in each sock, you'll never know when you need them.


Yes that's right, we said watches, as in plural. All referees that want to officiate at a good level should be wearing two watches. One that has the game time running down (Timer Mode) and one that has actual time running up (Stopwatch mode).

This allows you to call time off and on with one watch where required, and monitor blood bins using the actual time. It also means that if you accidentally forget to start your playing time watch (we have all done it), or your playing time watch stops working, you have an actual time watch to be able to tell when the end of the half/game is. recommends the Casio Sports Referee Watch RFT100-1V Casio Website for the Playing time watch. It is easy to use and has a vibrate function to alert you that time is up instead of beeping (it can beep as well if you like). Any watch can be used for the stopwatch.

Body language

There are a few things a referee can do, on top of looking the part, that will help the referee to be the best they can of the field.

Head Up

When running about the field keep your head up and shoulders back, this will give the impression that you know what you are doing, and you are confident in your decisions.

Don't step back when things go wrong

If you have a scrum collapse the easiest way to see that the referee was not sure about what happened is to see them back away from the scrum, stay where you are and make the call you feel is correct, whether it be a penalty, free kick or scrum. This does not mean do not step backwards in the game, as the game is dynamic and there are times you will need to do this, but don't do it when a set piece goes wrong.


Mark Lawrence Smiles

Do you enjoy refereeing? Of course you do, you wouldn't do it if you didn't. Then make it known, all the best referees have a smile on their face when they are officiating, again it gives the air of confidence and comfort with what you are doing.



Know how to use your whistle. Ensure you can get the correct tone for a penalty (Loud blast), Scrum (Short peep), and score (Triumphant Blast), the better the tone variety, the better 'sounding' the referee.


Make sure your signals are correct, Primary Signal first, Secondary Signal after then if required tertiary signal. Do not rush your signals, keep them clear so that everyone can see and understand them.


Last of all to perfect your game be clear in your communication with players. Try not to stammer, stutter, um or er, these are all signs that you are not comfortable with what you are trying to say, or don't understand what you are talking about.

Practice some key phrases that you will use during the game, practice saying the number, colour & message, for example "Seven Blue Roll Away" or "Eight Red Back Feet".

Use one syllable colours to reduce the chance of you stumbling on your words, if your teams are close, choose the main colours and tell the teams which they will be called:

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