Luke is a regular referee in the Premiership and has refereed many games at European and International level, including the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Haven risen through the ranks since breaking into officiating Premiership games in 2011, Luke has firmly put himself on the map as one of the world’s leading referees.
We caught up with Luke to find out a little more about his and her time in sport.
- Name: Luke Pearce
- Age: I’m 33 as of last month, time flies in this job
- Height: I think about 173 CM which I only know because of the weighing machine at the gym which gives me my predicted height
- Fitness regime: It’s actually changed a fair bit over lockdown because I used to be quite heavy gym goer and I’d spend most of my days there. But since we were locked down with COVID I’ve got far more into my cycling. For me a lot of it is about injury prevention and anything I can do to keep fit and prolong my career is great.
- Hometown: Exeter
- No of years referring: 15 – 16 years since I started
- How did you get started? I started locally because I enjoyed it. I wanted to stay involved in rugby as I wasn’t that good at playing, so it just evolved and then I ended up a level 5 game, and eventually an international – before I know it was my job but I never intended to make it a profession when I started.
- No of games refereed (prem/international/total): There’s a guy in New Zealand who keep stats on referees’ numbers and I’ve had mine recently and I’m now over 300 first class appearances, whatever that means, and 29 internationals.
- First game as a ref: Crediton 2nds v Newton Abbott 3rds. I always remember having my bag over my shoulder on a little moped stretching out to Crediton for the game – it was something that will live long in my memory that’s for sure.
- First premiership game as a ref: It was Gloucester v Worcester, 2011. I remember it well. You are always really welcomed as someone who’s doing their first Premiership game and walking out at Kingsholm and with all that noise and the crowd in the shed shouting – it was brilliant.
- First international as a ref: New Zealand v France was my first as a tier one referee. Japan v Canada was my first tier two.
- Favourite stadium to ref in? I have a couple. I’d say the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, tops the list for the atmosphere when you run out of the tunnel. When the roof is shut it’s a sound that I haven’t heard anywhere else. I would also have to add Eden Park, Twickenham and the U Arena, Paris.
- Who is your sporting hero? Michael Jordan
- What is your whistle of choice? I use an ACME whistle – always have, always will. I have a silver and a black one – the one I use depends on which comes out of the bag first! 😊
- Biggest moment in your career: Rugby World Cup 2019. There were two key memories for me, the first was my opening game Wales V Georgia and walking out in Toyota stadium – it was awesome. And the second was when my parents my wife and my newborn baby walked out at the second game in Kobe for the South Africa v Canada game. The game itself wasn’t memorable, it was 60 – 7 I think, but just that feeling of refereeing a World Cup game and then celebrating afterwards in the stadium with my family.
- Who inspired you to pick up the whistle? My dad refereed at Championship level so I grew up watching him referee. Before the game was professional we had refs driving thousands of miles along with working five days a week. They gave up their time and just cracked on and did it. Dad did it for about 20 years. I guess the inspirational bit was their dedication to sport. Working hard from 7 till 6:00 everyday, Monday to Friday, trying to run a family, keep everyone happy and then getting in the car on a Saturday morning driving hundreds of miles to ref a game. It was not just my dad there were loads of referees in that era that would do the same in every sport, but I think it’s undercooked really how much effort they put in.
- Which area of the game is the hardest to referee? The breakdown. If you pick a law book up, you could blow a penalty at pretty much every breakdown if you wanted to and that’s the difficulty, but we also want continuity in the game of rugby. My biggest advice is to clear that tackle area to make it easier for referees to keep it very simple. If a tackle is made, we have to get that tackler to release and roll away before we even look at anything else. It’s such a fundamental part of the game to get that continuity going and hopefully it keeps the responsibility on the players to keep the game going rather than the focus be on the ref to stop blowing the whistle.
- What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen on a rugby pitch? Refereeing a game in full snow and blizzard conditions in Kranoyarsk, Siberia.
- Who is the best player you’ve refereed? Lots! To many to mention.
- Who is the toughest player you’ve refereed? Good question… I’ll tell you in 10 years when when I’ve retired 😉
- What three things would you take to a desert island? Music speaker, my Labrador and a pillow
- Do you have any hidden talents? What’s your party trick? I enjoy a sing song, like to think that I have a half decent voice when the songs begin.
- Who would be your three dream dinner party guests, and why? Nigel Owens, he could provide the meat from his farm. The real life version of Luther, BBC series, to listen to some of the stories. Peter Kay, would be hilarious.
- What would you like to achieve outside of rugby? I’d love to establish a business that gives me an outside interest. I’ve actually started a project called Whistle Stop Coffee with a friend where we’ve got an old van and are converting into to do mobile coffee for games and events. Keep an eye out for it in an area near you!!!
- Which two teams would you love to referee? To be honest, any team who are playing attacking rugby – I love refereeing positive attacking teams. A Bledisloe match would be fantastic.
- How do you prepare for a game? Do you have a pre-game ritual? No rituals, but usual involves watching plenty of footage and working alongside my team for the weekend to ensure we have a waterproof plan in place for what we may expect.
Luke is an inspiration for other referees, who’s been inspired by his father to give back to the sport, literally falling into a career in rugby. We’re sure there is lots more to see from Luke on the premiership and international stage.