Premiership referee Christophe Ridley expressed support for the two protesters who disrupted the Premiership final at Twickenham over the weekend.
On Monday, it was confirmed that two men have been charged in relation to the incident during Saturday’s rugby final.
The protesters, identified as members of the Just Stop Oil group, invaded the pitch during the match between Saracens and Sale, throwing orange paint powder onto the field. They were subsequently escorted out of the stadium by stewards.
The Metropolitan Police announced that Samuel Johnson, 40, from Reydon, Suffolk, and Patrick Hart, 37, from Brislington, Bristol, have been charged with aggravated trespass.
This disruption adds to a series of sporting events affected, including the World Snooker Championship in April, where play was also halted.
Ridley, known as one of the league’s top referees, initially tweeted his support for the protesters but later deleted his post.
One fan responded: “So I can invade any rugby pitch I wish to in the future if I want to protest about something?”
Ridley replied: “No you can’t BUT … if you do and you stand for something we should all be concerned about… something much much bigger than the game, you’ll have my upmost respect.”
The referee then added: “Isn’t it about intent which in this case wasn’t to attack anyone but to raise awareness for what is undeniably a pretty big deal. We didn’t get this angry when someone invaded just for banter? At least this had substance.”
Luke Pearce named the best rugby referee in the world
Love them or loathe them, without referees, there would be no game of rugby union.
As a result, RUCK asked fans to debate who are the best rugby referees in the world.
Of course, criticism of officials often comes with the territory, but every so often, a referee has a game that makes the sport’s fraternity stand up and take notice.
Here are, according to fans, the five best rugby union referees at present.
#5. Mathieu Raynal (France)
Born in Perpignan, France, in 1981 Mathieu now officiates at the highest level of rugby and is on the World Rugby Referees Panel, returning as a referee for his second World Cup appearance as a referee.
Before refereeing Mathieu played locally and was part of the successful junior team that won the junior championships in France.
His refereeing career started in 2001 when he joined a local referees society. Mathieu was promoted from refereeing amateur rugby matches to the second division of France’s professional rugby structure in 2006, and quickly moved onto his first professional game as a match official between Grenoble and Toulon.
Mathieu’s first Test Match was between Malta V Netherlands in 2008 at the European Nations Cup, with his first Tier One fixture in 2012 – an Autumn international between Scotland and Tonga.
In 2022 Mathieu oversaw the Bledisloe Cup between Australia and New Zealand.
At the time of writing, to date Mathieu has overseen 36 test matches including fixtures at the Six Nations and the 2019 World Cup where he refereed South Africa V Namibia, Australia v Uruguay, and Scotland v Russia.