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NEW – Referee Abuse Proposal

This proposal is in effect as of the 2019-20 Competitive Cycle, and we urge all clubs to become very familiar with this policy. The TRU has had several efforts over the years to drive referee abuse out of our game, but we continue to have recurring issues.

As a result, the TRU and the RRRC have brought their two committees together and worked on a stronger proposal.

Update to Technical Zone Policy

All coaches, players, medics, etc., will remain behind the ropes and in their technical zone. Effectively the entire technical zone will now be behind ropes where the “team bench” was previously. Individuals (including coaches) are no longer permitted to stand in front of the ropes. This new policy is in addition to all other field policies.

Please see the updated technical diagram below for further clarification:

New TRU Rugby Pitch Technical Zones

Club Field Marshals

In an effort to help curb Referee Abuse, we’re recommending that clubs put Field Marshals in place. Field Marshals are very similar to a #4 but would also be responsible for monitoring the teams for issues. These individuals would be introduced to the visiting team’s coaching staff and would be responsible for reporting abuse and/or helping to mitigate issues.  Field Marshals are expected to be honest brokers who understand and honor the integrity of the game.

The TRU and RRRC reserve the right to place qualified individuals at games to observe potential abuse and help support the referee team. The playing teams may or may not be notified of this placement. The individual named will not be associated with either playing team nor have any significant interest in the outcome.

Abuse Occurrence

Abuse from a Club

Should any Referee Abuse occur, the Match Official witnessing the Referee Abuse will notify the offending coach, player or administrator that they are under warning. If the warning is not heeded and Referee Abuse persists, the Match Official will recommend to the center referee that the offending party be told to remove themselves from the venue.

If the offending party doesn’t leave as requested by the Center Referee, further escalation could include the center referee recommending a Sanction.

Abuse from Spectators

Should any spectator engage in Referee Abuse, the Match Official witnessing the Referee Abuse will recommend the center referee stop the match, notify both teams, and request their coaches address the situation with their spectators. If the warning is not heeded and Referee Abuse persists, the offending spectator(s) will be asked by the Match Official who witnessed the Referee Abuse to remove themselves from the venue.

If the offending spectator doesn’t leave as requested by the Match Official, further escalation could include the center referee recommending a Sanction.

Reporting Abuse

Should any abuse occur, it should immediately be reported to the TRU Disciplinary Committee for review. If the DC finds the report to be accurate, a Sanction will be imposed.



Upon a report of Referee Abuse from the center referee, the TRU DC may assess fines and suspensions on coaches, players, clubs and administrators.  The baseline fine and suspension structure is:

  • 1st offense: $200 and suspension minimum of one game
  • 2nd offense: $400 and suspension minimum of two games
  • 3rd offense: $600 and suspension minimum of three games

The fines and suspensions detailed above are minimums.  The TRU DC may also see fit to apply additional sanctions such as a player or coach being suspended from multiple matches, requirements of responsible individuals to take referee certification course, etc.  Decisions of the DC are appealable to the TRU Board.

Competitive Sanctions:

In addition to the TRU DC reviewing the report, the RRRC Competitions Committee reserves the right to review the report and recommend competitive sanctions, including but not limited to the forfeiture of the match in question, and/or docking of competitive points, if deemed necessary to deter future Referee Abuse. Decisions of the RRRC Competitions Committee are appealable as set forth in Section 13 of the 2019-20 USA Rugby Eligibility Rules, and its successor provisions in future Competitive Cycles.


If video of an incident is available, we do urge that it is included in the submission. Video that isn’t complete or edited will be considered suspect.


“Match Official” means the center referee, any Assistant Referee (AR), any member of the RRRC Committee or TRU Board, any #4 appointed by the TRRA, and/or any Field Marshal, charged with policing abuse of the referees.

“Referee Abuse” – For the purpose of this policy, abuse may be any conduct that falls under World Rugby Law 9, subsections 12, 27, and 28, governing verbal and physical abuse, acts contrary to good sportsmanship, and respecting the authority of the referee. However, the scope of this policy expressly extends this standard beyond participating players to include coaches, administrators, player reserves, medics, photographers, or other persons allowed inside the playing enclosure or technical zones. In order for an act to be considered foul play under Law 9 and World Rugby Regulation 17, the action must be intentional/deliberate or reckless.

It also includes, but is not limited to: (A) any intentional, but nonconsensual, contact with any Match Official; (B) verbal and nonverbal communication which contains foul or abusive language or which implies or directly threatens physical harm to any Match Official; (C) any threat or damage to a Match Official’s person or personal property; (D) questioning calls during ongoing match play, whether to the center referee or to an AR, as opposed to the head coach or captain (only) politely posing questions to the center referee (a captain may politely speak to a match official during a match; a coach may only speak to a match official in a polite manner before the match, at half time, and after the match); (E) after being warned as provided in this rule, any failure of any player, coach, administrator, support personnel, or fan to immediately leave the venue on the request of any Match Official; (F) repeated instances of dissent (as defined in the World Rugby Laws); (G) gyrating actions and/or kicking or throwing objects in response to the center referee’s or an AR’s call, non-call, or other action in officiating the match.

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