Two referee societies celebrate 20 year exchange program

The New England Rugby Referee Society, based in Massachusetts, and the Gloucester UK Referee Society, based in England, are celebrating 20 years of a successful international referee exchange program.

LAFAYETTE, CO. - It is a milestone year for two referee societies. The New England Rugby Referee Society, based in Massachusetts, and the Gloucester UK Referee Society, based in England, are celebrating 20 years of a successful international referee exchange program.

The referee exchange, or the Gloucester Exchange as they have fittingly named the program, is intended to, "enhance refereeing in New England using a "cross-pollination" of ideas and experience with the Gloucester & District Referees Society of England" says Chris Schuyler, Gloucester Exchange Coordinator.

Referees that have participated in the program have received a unique opportunity to gain international experience to further their knowledge and expertise relating to international play. In these past 20 years, the New England Rugby Referee Society has sent 53 New England referees to Gloucester and have in return hosted 59 Gloucester referees.

The exchange takes place each year for ten days at a time. Typically, New England sends three referees to Gloucester during the local cup competitions in early April, and Gloucester sends three referees during the week leading up to the NERFU Cup weekend in May.


"Our referees get a minimum of three matches - with six matches being the most a referee has done on the Exchange" Schuyler explained. "They also attend the Gloucester & District Referee Society dinner and the Gloucester referees attend our annual Society dinner while on the exchange."

Additionally, with many referees only having a minor amount of training, the international partnership puts a core focus on providing a development opportunity for referees with a few years of referee experience.

"We think taking referees out of their comfort zone and presenting them with new challenges is a great way for referees to improve" Schuyler explains, "All referees receive coaching reports on their matches while on the exchange."  

"We also use it as a reward for new referees who are working hard to improve, and if we see someone committed to their development as a referee, we place them in the pool of potential exchange candidates," says Schuyler.  

When looking ahead to the next 20 years, Schuyler says the first thing their team plans to do is keep it going. He reflects on the many people who have willingly donated their spare bedrooms and free time to host these referees, "I'm amazed every year that we have NERRS members who volunteer to help out."

Schuyler concluded by saying that there have been discussions of a 2nd exchange program, but while logistics continue to be ironed out, he is happily celebrating 20 years of the Gloucester Exchange program.

Is your club or community doing something to grow the game in the US?  Please let us know. Contact Ashley Brooks at abrooks@usarugby.org.