‘Whistleblower’ is David Matthews, a long serving honorary

life member of the club .

He was President of Lancashire County RFU for 2014/2015

He enjoyed twenty years on the RFU Referee List, including two seasons on the International Panel between 1992-94. This also comprised Assistant Referee duties and work as Television Match Official for eleven years

 to 2012.



Level 1 to Level 7 - the gulf is ridiculous, especially the refereeing

An early season but far from original observation by David Matthews


Amidst a flurry of action and a record total of fifty tries, the Premiership led the way in launching a new season. I was able to watch two live games on successive days, one at level 7 and the other at level 1. The contrast, though blatantly clear, was striking but in many ways depressing, with the refereeing nuances impossible to ignore. Not all referees can make it to the top but just what are the elusive qualities which enable the successful ones to make it?


My Premiership live spectating was Leicester v Bath and the referee was Luke Pearce but I shall keep the details of the other match anonymous, suffice to say the ground is situated adjacent to the A580, East Lancs Road. To that one first: on a lovely, sunny afternoon when both sides clearly wanted to play rugby (when they were allowed to, it was quite entertaining) what possesses the man holding the whistle to completely misread the mood and do his utmost to spoil their ambitions? I am reliably informed that he talked continuously to the players, which only had the effect of irritating them; how else to explain an enormous penalty count covering every offence in the book? Inevitably, there was a fight late on and red cards for a player from each side, though a couple of others were lucky to stay on.


Something I can never understand is what exactly is going through the mind of the referee when the incessant sound of his whistle occupies the entire afternoon? If there are problems, does he believe they are being solved? Does he have an obligation to players and spectators, however many might be in attendance, to assist in creating entertainment? Depressingly, there is a school of thought which is opposed to the latter; what a state we are in.


From the ridiculous to the sublime. I doubt whether there is a bigger or more impressive set up in the country than Leicester’s Welford Road headquarters. Expectation is high and the full house, which this meeting with old rivals Bath almost generated, can be a pretty unforgiving lot if the referee happens to get it wrong. There was no danger of Luke Pearce doing that as he maintained the ideal balance between halting play when an offence had an effect on the game and allowing the teams to express themselves. An exhilarating game resulted with the outcome in doubt up to the final whistle; the referee, already operating on the international stage, is one to look out for.


Something is obviously going well in the development of our young referees. It is unquestionably a game for them at the top level and the group assembled, all benefiting from endless, unseen preparation, are setting high standards. They look the part and take charge of the game accordingly.


What a pity some of these factors fail to reach Society level where the perennial problem of shortage of numbers hinders progress. But, wherever you have been watching your rugby in the first few weeks, has anyone seen evidence of the new laws?

DWM 10/9/17 (2)




Archive Whistleblower