Ref boss praises whistlers

Regional referee development officer Iain Heard, one of the Borders’ most well known and successful referees, is running a recruitment campaign to tie in with the Kings of the 7s circuit, writes Stuart Cameron.

Local whistlers such as Andrew McMenemy and Cammy Rudkin have quickly climbed the ladder and are now operating at a very high level, while ex-players, including Selkirk’s Scott Tomlinson, have now become involved and are enjoying their new roles,.

However, there’s another group of younger people who are refereeing school games on Saturday mornings and the Under-16s and below on Sundays.

The message from Heard is that the impression some may have – that the youngsters are “left to get on with it” – is far from the truth and he wants to ensure that people understand there is an excellent support network for them and this is a selling point which is often overlooked.

He told TheSouthern: “We try to give a lot of support to people when they start and we’ve started a project local to Galashiels this year with the schools. We’ve done a few level one courses with the schools and Andy Tomes, who has been a referee and coach, is dealing with the younger lads, and ensures that they get a good spread of fixtures. The likes of Andrew McMenemy will go down and watch them and offer advice, and the programme has been very successful.”

Heard is keen to roll this programme out throughout the area.

“It’s important that we plant the seed early enough with youngsters because this makes a difference,” he said. “They might go on to play rugby, but if they don’t they’re more than likely to get involved with refereeing.

“There are tremendous opportunities for referees and we’re keen to expand on this initiative.”

While we’re all aware of the high profile referees from the area, there are many who turn out week in, week out, to referee lower grade matches to give guys a game and Heard is keen to stress the importance of these people.

“Guys don’t need to aim for Magners League or international level. Some are happy to referee at lower levels. Similarly, you don’t have to be an ex-player or a youngster. We recently recruited a 55 year old. Anyone can be a referee - the message is they will receive our full support.”

There aren’t as many ex-players turning to refereeing which is disappointing, but the likes of Ali Campbell (ex Jed) and Tomlinson have done so.

Tomlinson added: “I was at an avenue where I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. When I retired as a player I missed my rugby and needed a fix on a Saturday afternoon. The idea of refereeing came up and I decided to give it a shot.”

Contact Iain Heard on 07764 178926 for more information.