Lack of officials a reflection of society: O’Brien

Former rugby referee Paddy O'Brien during an Otago v Canterbury game in 1999. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Former rugby referee Paddy O'Brien during an Otago v Canterbury game in 1999. PHOTO: ODT FILES
A Southland rugby referee who reached the highest echelon with the whistle says the lack of officials for the game is sad but a reflection of society.

Unions around the country are all suffering from a lack of referees and Southland is not immune.

Paddy O’Brien refereed at World Cups and in 27 tests.

He is still involved in the game, looking after the referees on the sevens circuit.

Mr O’Brien said recruitment and retention had always been a problem for referees and retention was probably more of an issue now.

He said there were many reasons affecting referee numbers but a major one was rugby reflected what was happening in society, which was a growing lack of respect for authority.

Paddy O’Brien
Paddy O’Brien
He said that attitude was in homes and schools and was also now on the rugby paddock.

People just did not like being told what to do or they had done something wrong and reacted to that, he said.

"Referees do not want to abused but it happens. It is sad.

"It was there when I [refereed] but now we have it online where people say these things," he said.

"People used to ring in on the talkback and say things so it has always been there.

"I can say I never got abused personally but now all those comments come through online."

He said the biggest issue was a lot of adults thought their child was going to be an All Black and when the child was penalised, they took out their frustration on the referee, which was just wrong.

The referees were just doing their job and that had to be recognised.

Refereeing was a great role and you got the best seat in the house, Mr O’Brien said.

He thoroughly recommended the role and said it would keep young people in the game.

Working with the officials on the sevens circuit, they coped abuse but loved the job, and the fast pace of the game, he said.

One option Mr O’Brien favoured was for those who abused referees to referee a few games themselves.

That had happened a few times and the punished players never abused referees when coming back to play.