Article By: Amanda Lubeck
"People don't referee for the money. They don't get paid enough for that. For the most part, everyone who referees is doing it because they love rugby and they want to be a part of it," says Peter Lloyd-Evans, treasurer of New England Rugby Referee Society (NERRS). Armed with this notion, NERRS has long given their members a choice every season: rugby clubs who use NERRS's officiating services pay the society fees, giving NERRS the ability to reimburse their volunteer referees for matches, mileage and other costs associated with officiating. When these reimbursements are distributed, NERRS asks the individual members if they would like to donate a portion of their reimbursement to a nonprofit. The referees can select from a number of different nonprofits and funds including the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund, supported by USA Rugby Trust. So far this year, 20 referees have donated to the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund, and Lloyd-Evans expects several more will follow suit and make a donation before the end of the year.
Lloyd-Evans has been a referee for more than 20 years in New England and can't say enough about the benefits of being a rugby official. "It teaches you a lot. It helps you learn how to work with people," he explains. "Refereeing is a people-management exercise. It teaches you confidence and management skills." The refinement of these skills, of course, is one reason NERRS chooses to support the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund. "A program like the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund scholarship allows our youngest, most capable, high-potential referees to develop and share their skills with others. That's the goal of the program - not to develop just a single person into a spectacular referee, but to have them bring those lessons back," he says.
Beyond recognizing the importance of developing young referees in order to grow the game, NERRS also shares a deeper connection to the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund because of its relationship with Don Morrison prior to his death. One of the founders of NERRS, Morrison is revered amongst Society members and within the greater rugby community for his passion and knowledge for the game. "Having Don Morrison available to us was always the best benefit that we could offer to anyone interested in refereeing. His passing was a great loss to us, both in terms of the friendships we created with him and in terms of his leadership and knowledge of how to make referees better. We can't overstate all of the things Don has done for NERRS, so because his name is attached to the fund, that carries a lot of weight. We're committed to supporting that - both in his memory and because we see a direct benefit from the program."
And certainly, NERRS truly has seen the direct benefits of the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund program firsthand. Three local referees - Amelia Luciano, Emily Hsieh and Aaron Yappert - have been granted the opportunity to partake in the program since its inception in 2013, spending a season honing their referee skills in a tier-one rugby nation. Lloyd-Evans explains the positive impact this has made on rugby in New England: "When these referees return, they're able to take the ideas and techniques they have learned and bring them back. They are committed to continuing to support our society and to the development of referees in the United States."
USA Rugby Trust thanks the New England Rugby Referee Society members who contributed to the Shanagher Morrison Referee Fund. If you know a young referee who could benefit from this program, encourage them to apply today! Applications must be received by December 23.
In Lloyd-Evans's mind, growing the game of rugby has three components: growing the player pool, developing the coaches and training the referees who can create an environment where the game can be played consistently and safely. USA Rugby Trust is committed to growing and developing the game at all levels. If you would like to contribute to this mission, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to USA Rugby Trust.
If you are interested in becoming a referee, please visit the USA Rugby Referees resources page to get started!