Becoming a Referee

Don’t want to read about how wonderful it is to referee rugby, and just want get to the point? Click here.


Getting in on the best seat in the house

Why become a referee? Simply stated, few things can match up to the shear joy of awarding a first try for a player, seeing a powerful tackle up close, or the admiring the teamwork of a string of well-placed passes. Referees use the phrase “the best seat in the house” to describe the role they play on a rugby field because they get to be in the heart of the action, seeing things spectators, players, and coaches don’t get to see.


Why not become a referee?

Over the years, we’ve heard a lot of great arguments about why you shouldn’t be a referee. To name a few:

If I become a referee, I won’t have a team!

True – you have multiple teams! Referees get to float amongst the spectators, coaches, and players. There is nothing like rolling up to the fields, talking to players who you haven’t seen in a while, conversing with a mom who knows you know her son, and talking to coaches about what they have been working on that week.

These experiences say nothing from the camaraderie of the referees. Each one has a story to tell and each has a heart of gold. The referees band together and at tournaments, coming into the ref tent is like old home week.

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I can’t think on my feet!

Most people watch high-level international matches and think that speed is what they will have to referee on day one. Montana Rugby Referees start on low-level, local matches that allow the new referee to build confidence. These matches move much slower, and you will do faster matches when you are ready.

I’m going to screw up a match, and I don’t want to hurt the players.

Conventional wisdom holds the top-level, international referees miss 12 game changing calls per match. As you may expect, the bar is much lower for the local referee. Players and coaches respond to referees who are working to improve and most will actively help a referee diagnose problems that crop up. Now in the heat of the match, you may have a frustrated player, but afterwards is a great chance to learn and improve.

I can’t afford it

Montana works hard to ensure that you may not make lots of cash but you will break even. Referees are normally housed at events, fed, and paid gas money (or hitch a ride with others). Some very famous events (yes one of them is held in Montana) has specific referee amenities. Short of the whole thing: you’re not going to get rich, but money is not a barrier.

I never played rugby

Believe it or not but one of the most well respected referees in the United States, Don Morrison, was never a player. Having played is helpful but not essential.

I don’t want to get yelled at by a coach, a player, a parent, a spectator…

One of rugby’s core values is respect – this includes the referee (ever wondered why we’re called “sir”?). USA Rugby has issued directives to crack down on the bad apples that spoil the game. Montana works hard to ensure that referees receive constructive feedback rather than a “you suck”. Look, no lies, someone is going to go off on a referee, but for the most part, this is the exception not the norm.


OK, You’ve convinced me. Now what?

  1. Fill out the form located here. This lets us know that you’re interested!
  2. The Montana Rugby Referees run introduction to refereeing courses on a regular basis. We’ll get you signed up for a course as soon as we can.
  3. You get out on the field and start enjoying refereeing!