Northampton Saints is helping develop the next generation of referees in the East of England as part of the club’s commitment to developing rugby union as a whole in the region.
Thirty 16-to-18-year-olds from the Saints’ Developing Player Programme will be receiving referee training as part of the RFU’s Young Officials Programme during the course of the season, with funding also coming from the RFU World Cup Legacy funding stream.
One of the initial nine youngsters to be trained, 16-year-old Josh Bailey, was officiating quickly as assistant referee for one of the Saints’ Under-15 matches against Cardiff last Friday lunchtime.
Academy coach Jon Curry says that encouraging young players to train as referees is important if rugby union is to continue growing as a sport.
“All sports need qualified and experienced officials as much as they need players, especially with a complex sport like rugby union,” he said. “This is why we’ve partnered with the RFU and East Midlands Referees Society to offer training to 30 of our youngsters to encourage them to take a greater interest in the sport.
“We know that the players in the Developing Player Programme understand the basics of rugby and have the fitness to be able to officiate. We also know that competition is fierce for a professional player contract and only a handful of them will have that privilege.
“So having them train up as match officials gives them the opportunity to develop themselves in another area of the game, and give them some better understanding which will help their own approach to how they play rugby, too.”
“All areas of the local RFU team have enjoyed supporting Jon Curry in providing another opportunity to for the holistic development of the young people through match officiating,” added John Widdowson, RFU match official development officer. “We will continue to support Jon in identifying and providing opportunities within local clubs and tournaments for the newly qualified young people to hone their skills.”
The Saints Academy provides a range of support for junior clubs and schools throughout the East of England, including the Cascade Coaching programme to develop club and school coaches.
For more information contact Jon Curry by emailing [email protected].