Rugby Utah, USA Rugby announce rugby referee training program in partnership with London Referee Society, Friends of the British Council, U.K.'s Richmond University

As U.S. rugby participation grows at unprecedented levels, player interest is outpacing the current referee population. New program offers worldwide immersive training and University degrees with referee certification in effort to meet the demand.

SALT LAKE CITY - USA Rugby and Rugby Utah announced Tuesday a first-of-its-kind Rugby Referee Training Academy (RRTA) to be based in Utah with partnerships that extend over to the U.K.

As USA Rugby has strived to increase the professional development options for referees, in turn increasing the level of play at all levels of the game domestically, it has sought to bridge the quality programming available through the ever-improving USA Rugby Referee Academy with the regional-based National Development Academies and State Rugby Organizations. Rugby Utah has already excelled at pooling the collective talent in the state to create competitive playing squads from the youth level to senior clubs, and has identified referee training as a vital prong in the development of the game inside and outside of state lines.

"This program will provide unprecedented focus and unparalleled resources to support our current referee programs and to firm up the pathway to recruit and retain the next generation of referees," Rugby Utah Referee Organization President Paul Benson said. "We are seeking a diverse group of high school- and college-aged male and female candidates to begin embracing this important cog in building the game."

USA Rugby Training and Education Director Kenneth Forehand has long been a proponent of a life-long development pathway for the recruitment, training, and career placement and advancement of referees. For the RRTA, USA Rugby and Rugby Utah have joined forces with the influential London Society of Rugby Football Union Referees, with support from the British Council, and Richmond University.

The result of the joint effort to create the most advanced and in-depth referee training initiative in history is both the short-term immersive referee training and multi-year degree and referee certification programs offered by Richmond University in London. The unique partnership with the only U.K.-based university to have its degrees accredited in the U.K. and the U.S. will allow interested referees to receive in-depth instruction from some of the world's top senior referees at RRTA co-founder London Society of Rugby Football Union Referees.

"This is perhaps the most aggressive advancement in rugby referee training in the game's storied history," London Society of Rugby Football Union Referees General Secretary Dr. Tim Miller said. "We are privileged to be partnering with Rugby Utah, USA Rugby, and our fellow societies throughout the world in this exciting global endeavor. No other sport, to my knowledge, has ever made such a concentrated attempt."

Participation in RRTA's short-term and multi-year programs is on a first-come, first-served basis and is open to all regardless of age and/or experience. Additional, custom programming is also available, as the standard RRTA programs will have limited space for participants due to the specialized nature of the curriculum.

"We fully expect applications to far exceed capacity our first year and will strive to extend the program in an appropriate way to meet demand," USA Rugby Referee Development Manager Marc Nelson said. "We're excited to be a part of this groundbreaking effort."

Rugby Utah is also looking to recruit students that are interested in furthering their education abroad in the U.K. and adding rugby-related curricular items via Richmond University in London and its satellite location in Leeds. More information on educational opportunities can be requested from the University, while Rugby Utah has more on the rugby-specific activities.

"As the post-Olympic rugby fever continues to build across the nation, we could not think of a better time to announce this unparalleled global collaboration dedicated to recruit and train the next generation of rugby referees to meet with explosive growth demands of America's fastest-growing team sport," Rugby Utah Chief Executive Officer Ken Rivera said.

More exciting initiatives are in the works in the Beehive State. Visit Rugby Utah's website at RugbyUtah.com and follow the NDA via its social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter) for more updates.

About Rugby Utah

Rugby Utah (RU) is the official Recognized Geographic Rugby Organization for USA Rugby and is focused on aggregating the strengths of rugby in the state of Utah, from the youth to the elite levels for Coaches, Referees, Fans / Supporters and of course Players. The goal of RU is to unify rugby within the state through High Performance programs like the Olympic Development Academy and Community programs like the Rugby Business Network, Touch Rugby League and A 2nd Try Foundation. With these programs already producing positive results on and off the pitch the "United State of Rugby" looks to develop the most elite rugby players, coaches and referees and to develop the economic engines necessary to build and strengthen America's rugby culture. For more information, visit www.rugbyutah.com
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