From 50 to 500 – RFU #INSPIRE women to take up refereeing - Ruck

From 50 to 500 – RFU #INSPIRE women to take up refereeing

With 50 days until England face Japan in the Autumn Nations Series at Twickenham, we’re delighted to be partnering with the RFU and ACME Whistles on a nationwide campaign to celebrate female rugby referees around the country.

Starting today, a female referee will be showcased every day in the build up to the international on November 12th, highlighting their story and passion for the game.

This group of 50 #INSPIRE female referees will then have the opportunity to come together on the pitch at Twickenham at the England v Japan Autumn International to celebrate women in refereeing, minutes before kick-off. 

The campaign is all part of a drive from the RFU to inspire more women to take up the whistle, with the target of training 500 new female rugby referees by the end of 2024.

“It’s so important to bring more women into rugby,” said Leonie Pryor, RFU Match Official Developer, who created the project.

“With such a dominance on the pitch from the Red Roses, and with our top female referees making a name in both men’s and women’s rugby – there are so many incredible female role models in the sport.

“By sharing some of the incredible stories behind these amazing women, we hope that more players, fans and family – no matter what their age – will look at refereeing as a way to be involved in the sport.

Across England, the number of registered female referees who regularly officiate games is currently lower than the number of registered male referees, something that Leonie and her team are keen to change.

“Having already talked to many of the inspiring women referees from around the UK, it’s the stories of ‘confidence’, ‘teamwork’, ‘community’ and ‘belonging’ that make this such a powerful project.

“You never know – we might even inspire the next Sara Cox, or Hollie Davidson to join refereeing.”

ACME Whistles, whose founder invented the modern-day sports whistle, is backing the campaign by helping to spread the word through its network of elite referee contacts, as well as creating a personalised engraved whistle for each referee involved.

Ben McFarlane, marketing director at ACME Whistles, added: “Over the last year, we have spoken to some of the world’s leading female rugby referees, including Sara Cox, Aimee Barrett-Theron, Hollie Davidson and Kat Roche – all incredibly talented and dedicated elite referees.

“We believe in refereeing talent and recognising the time and effort every referee gives to the sport.

“We are therefore delighted to be able to support a campaign that shines a spotlight on women in rugby and will encourage more women and girls to take up the whistle.

“The stories we have heard so far have been incredible and we are working to create a very special platform to showcase each of the fifty referees and their stories in a digital ‘yearbook’.

“Without referees, we can’t have sport so it’s only right that we are backing this important campaign – #INSPIRE!”