Why Should You Become A Rugby Referee?

Rugby has a rule book longer than the Bible. Not only is there a plethora of rules but many of the rules are open for interpretation. This means that the referee is a very important person on the rugby field. His decisions can have major implications on the match. You definitely do not want to get on their bad side otherwise you could end up getting the short end of the stick when it comes to the penalty count.

Why should you become a rugby referee?

You should become a rugby referee because the game can not function without good refereeing and there is always a shortage of high quality referees. Refereeing is a great way to get involved in rugby and give yourself the best view on the pitch while also getting paid for your time.

What Are The Benefits Of Being A Rugby Referee?

Being a rugby referee will make you fit, with professional referees running 6km per match. Refereeing can be a lucrative career with top referees being paid over $200,000 per year. Refereeing is a great way to support your club and ensure games run smoothly.

How Fit Do You Have To Be To Become A Rugby Referee?

You have to be very fit to be a rugby referee. Rugby referees on average run over 6km per game and maintain a 85% max heart rate of 155 for 45 minutes of the match. To become a referee you have to achieve an impressive score of 15 on the YOYO test.

Rugby referees may not be as fit as rugby players but they aren’t too far behind. In the modern game rugby referees are athletes in their own right.

World Rugby from 2009 and 2013 studied rugby referees using tracking and heart rate technology to analyse the physical workrate of rugby referees during professional matches.

The results were as follows:

  1. Referees ran on average 6.8km during an 80 minute match
  2. Referees ran 1.5 kilometers at high intensity, which was calculated as speeds above 50% of their max
  3. Referees spent over 5mins running quickly or sprinting.
  4. Referees maintained average heart rate of 85% of their max for 45 minutes of the game
  5. Referees sprinted 13 times a match for an average distance of 10m

How Much Do Rugby Referees Earn?

International rugby union referees make $150,000 to $200,000 per year and are also given free cars. The top rugby league referees in the NRL earn $230,000 per year and a minimum of $76,0000.

Refereeing can be a lucrative full time career if you make it to the pinnacle of refereeing. If you are in charge of high level professional matches, particularly tests you can rake in big bucks and push your salary comfortably into the 6 figures. This is not bad for jogging around a rugby field and keeping an eye on things.

Of course professional rugby referees are under a lot of scrutiny and all their decisions are analysed very closely. A small mistake could lead to them being sent back to the amateur leagues where referees are lucky to earn $200 a match. Outside of the handful of elite rugby referees who preside over professional and international matches the vast majority of rugby referees are either volunteers or paid a small match fee. 

The match fee depends on the level of the match, for mid level professional matches referees can earn up to $500 per match and for low level and semi-pro matches referees will typically take home $100 to $300. These fees are not enough to earn a full time living so if you aren’t refereeing top tier professional matches you will have to find another job to support yourself.

Even if it is difficult to earn a full time living refereeing rugby matches it can still be a nice little side hustle that easily makes you a couple of thousands a year which if you love rugby makes it more than worth it.

Is It Hard To Become A Rugby Referee?

It is very easy to become a referee. You just need to sign up with your local rugby district. They then will assign you a coach, some training and will get you out refereeing as an assistant in local amateur games within a few weeks. You do not need to pass tests to become a junior assistant.

Starting your journey as a rugby referee is very simple. Rugby clubs are always short on referees as it can be a thankless job and is not as glamorous as being a player. Due to this clubs have made it as easy as possible for you to join the reffing fraternity.

To become a rugby referee just sign up with your local rugby district. They will reach out to you and give you all the information you need to get your knowledge up to speed. They also will book you into some training sessions and assign you a mentor who will guide you through your refereeing journey.

Even though there are a lot of rugby rules to get your head around don’t worry you will start off as a touch judge so your responsibilities will be limited. You will also start off refereeing children’s or lower grade amateur rugby so you do not have to worry about one of your potential mistakes causing the world to implode.


Rugby refereeing can be a great endeavour to take up. It will keep you fit and challenge your running ability. It could be a potential lucrative career or a nice way to earn a bit of pocket money.

Refereeing can be a great way to stay connected to the game once your playing days are over. By refereeing you will be doing your part to ensure the sport of rugby survives and matches can continue to be held and run smoothly.

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