The Whistle blower - how you can move up ref hierarchy from trial member to Test official
Who would you consider to be a good referee? Alain Rowland or Nigel Owens would feature on most lists.
Regardless of who fits the description, one thing is for certain - all referees have a similar starting point.
Last Saturday in the Galway Sportsground, the latest batch of new referee recruits took their first steps under the watchful eye of Peter Fitzgibbon (Connacht referee development officer).
Just days after a packed house watched Connacht turnover Munster, six new trial members were being provided with comprehensive training that will hopefully introduce them to the next Robbie Henshaw or Denis Buckley.
This is the second trial group this season. The first group provided eight new full referees in the first half of the season. The current trail group will be provided with additional training workshops, mentoring and pitch-side coaching for their first few games before becoming full referee members.
Having successfully completed the trial process, new referees can then progress through a number of different levels.
Each level exposes referees to games of increasing competition within Connacht. This includes refereeing Connacht Senior League, schools and youth finals and being appointed as touch judge for Ulster Bank Irish League games in the province.
When a referee has demonstrated they can competently manage games up to Level 3, they can then be selected to represent the Association on IPAS (Inter Provincial Assessment Selection).
IPAS allows referees from all the provinces to officiate at a selected number of games across the country. Collated assessments from these games will determine who will be promoted from the provincial ranks to referee at national league level.
From there the next big step is taking charge of Pro 12, European and IRB appointed fixtures.
ARCB has six members refereeing in the national leagues (the highest representation ever). Another of our group (Jason Cairns), is on the IPAS panel. Since October he has refereed top club games in Limerick, Belfast and Dublin.
Jason started refereeing in 2011, when he realised his playing days were over due to injury. He has highlighted the structured pathway that has helped him in his refereeing.
"ARCB has encouraged, supported and mentored me become a better referee. It has played a huge role in my development through the great work being done by all assessors and dedicated workshops".
Jason has also identified the benefit he received from the use in Connacht of Refcam (a detailed video analysis of your game) and participating in IPAS.
"This season, I have referred outside my province through a format called IPAS. I have gained valuable experience and as a result grown as a referee. IPAS has been a challenge but it has certainly been worth it".
If you fancy becoming a referee, no matter the level you aspire to, then contact Peter Fitzgibbon by phone on 086-8322987 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Damian Eames - president, Association of Referees Connacht Branch (ARCB)