Refereeing the big boys
In 2014 BBC Berkshire ran the following article on our guest speaker.
Berkshire based Ashley Rowden is one of England’s most respected Rugby Union referees. In his distinguished career he has sent over 90 players to the sin-bin and refereed over a 130 Premiership matches.
Ashley first caught the refereeing bug from his father at the tender age of seven. He’s seen many changes in the sport. However, the level of respect the players have for the referee hasn’t changed much.
“I think when you introduce money into any sport, people view it differently. Fortunately we still have a huge amount of respect for the players on the field.
“Players want to win more. Now it’s about playing for contracts, many players are on short term two-year-contracts.
“If they get relegated, they may be out of a job. If they get promoted or win a trophy they’ll get bonuses. But we still seem to have that level of respect that football is sadly lacking.”
“When we do pre-match meetings, we speak to the captains for a couple of minutes.
“I usually say, ‘the discipline is down to you gentlemen, if your players step out of line, I or my assistant referee will get involved’.
“But I don’t really want that. If we have to get involved, there’s going to be a sanction of some sort.”
Being in the limelight and rubbing shoulders with the world’s top rugby players isn’t always as enjoyable as you may first think.
“On match day, it’s hard to enjoy it, because it’s so tense and there is so much pressure. You get to enjoy it on the Monday or the Tuesday after. You can relax and only then you realise you’ve done a good job.
Whether you’re a player or a referee, you need to have a good level of fitness. The training schedule is pretty gruelling for both parties.
“I’m getting slower as I get older. I train three or four times a week, for about an hour at a time. As the game has become more professional, we as referees have tried to keep up with the players.
“We now get tested three or four times a year on our speed, endurance, body fat and knowledge on the rules of the game.
This professionalism is synchronised with the way they act on the field.
“We aim to get a consensus, so we all try and referee the games in the same way. Obviously with humans you’re not going to get total uniformity.”
Though Ashley juggles his part time refereeing with a full time job, his professionalism and interest has always been a hundred per cent.
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