Super League referee’s technological innovation set to reduce abuse and improve on-field conditions

BEING a referee is one of the toughest jobs in sport.

Berated by both sets of fans, stuck in the middle of the field with a whistle and with all eyes firmly fixed on you, it is not exactly the most welcoming of professions.

That being said, those referees that do take up the whistle do so for the love of the game and they should be lauded for their continued commitment.

But, they shouldn’t have to stand against abuse from the touchline – and that’s why Super League referee Liam Moore has been at the forefront of an innovative technology campaign to ease that.

The so-called ‘ref cam’ is a device strapped to a referee that records a full game – and records both player and fan behaviour.

“A couple of years ago we identified that poor touchline behaviour as well as poor player behaviour towards younger referees was impacting the size of the referee pool. We can recruit plenty of referees, the issue we have is retaining them,” Moore said.

“One of the biggest factors in losing a referee is when they go to officiate a community game on the weekend and they have had enough. We then lose them to the game and we are back to square one.

“We sat down with a group of officials as well as in conference with leagues and clubs and societies. What became an idea was the introduction of ref cams.”

Since then, the project has become a massive success and round one of the Challenge Cup in 2023 will see the ‘ref cam’ on show.

“What we instructed with the National Conference League (NCL) last year, they piloted the scheme by buying six go-pro cameras. And after the success of the NCL pilot last year, we found not only did the camera act as a deterrent for players to not abuse the referee and we saw match abuse cases lower from the touchline in the NCL,” Moore continued.

“On the back of that, Enjoy the Campaign and support from different leagues all came together with funds and active involvement to purchase 200 head cams. They will be rolled out through the societies and they will be used in round one of the Challenge Cup.

“It’s really productive, not only in a disciplinary purpose for players, but the second point is that it can help in the development of referees.

“They can hear what they are saying in managing players in difficult scenarios. That will then progress up to, hopefully, Super League in a few years time.”

Moore also revealed that the Football Association approached rugby league ahead of their own campaign to improve conditions for referees.

“The FA actually approached us after learning about the ref cam, explaining their project that they are going to set up. We are pioneers of this and leading the way.”