He was one of the most well-known referees in Rugby League for over 15 years – and now Steve Ganson is facing up to being in charge of the men he used to work alongside on a regular basis.
It’s the classic case that happens all over the world; the challenge of overseeing a group of men with which you used to be a key part of. It happens after promotions in any walk of life, the only difference being that Ganson hasn’t retired for a while now on the field.
The big names in the profession – on this side of the world at least – will answer to Ganson from now on: although he did do the job of Head of Refereeing in an acting role last year after Jon Sharp’s departure from the position.
But Ganson has now got the gig on a full-time basis – and he has warned that he’s keen to dispel one particular myth fans have with the refereeing in Super League in particular.
“We’ve brought new referees in and they’ve come in on contracts, not with full-time guarantees,” he told TotalRL.com.
“I’ve got several referees now who are on two-year deals and what that means is hopefully they improve and get a new deal – and if they don’t, I’ve got to make sure that the referees below them who are performing get a chance, just like clubs do with their players. There needs to be someone there to jump in and do a great job.
“People have wanted this for years and we’ve now got it. People used to say it didn’t matter what the referees did out on the field because they’d definitely get a game the week after – but he won’t this year, that just won’t happen.
“I’ve got nine referees for six games in Super League and believe me, I won’t be afraid to change things if I need to, mark my words.”
Ganson is clearly pulling no punches, and it’s understood that one of the key changes that could be made this year is a reduction from the heavily criticised two video referee system, with it reverting back to one. That is news that will please many, and although that particular aspect of a referee’s job drew criticism last year, Ganson stood up for the overall standard of officiating i.n 2015.
“I always believe that if the officiating is poor then it often affects the quality of the games you’ll see,” he said.
“I’m pleased to say that some of our big occasions and the big matches last year were well-officiated. I think the referees had a part to play in the great spectacle that was 2015.
“We got some World Cup qualifiers and then Ben (Thaler) did the first Test before being adjudged to being the best referee and getting the third Test, too. Ben was new to that level of game; he did the cup final last year, then the Grand Final and he earned the right to do the Test series.”
But aside from Ganson possessing what appears to be more full-time referees than ever before, he concedes there is an underlying issue which needs addressing.
“It could be better, clearly,” he says when asked about the levels of referees working at all levels. “We need more referees ultimately to create a bigger pool, because the bigger the pool is, the better the standard will be.
“I’m not just in charge of six refs; I’m in charge of referees all the way down to amateur level. We’ve got people who are actively working at getting more referees into the game, and we want to create a pathway for the officials so that they can be confident they can start at the bottom and know what they’ve got to do to get right to the top.”