Rugby Match Officials Explained

Although my article was prompted by the incident at the recent Sevens World Series tournament in Australia where it is alleged that New Zealand had 8 players on the field at one stage, I am not going to discuss the incident and speculate as to what I think might have happened. What I want to do is to explain what happens next to the field during high-level matches.

Gone are the days where the match day management was left to the referee and his 2 “linesman”.  Today we have a whole team of officials next to the field, ensuring that everything runs smoothly so that the referee and his 2 assistant referees can concentrate on the game on the field. Although the referee is still in charge of everything, this whole team is there to assist him. The team consists of the following people:

Referee: responsible for everything that happens on the field.

Assistant Referees (AR): Their main duties are to indicate touch, to indicate the success of a kick at goal and to assist the referee with foul play. It is, however, within the referee’s discretion to ask them to assist with anything else pertaining to the Laws of the game. This would normally entail letting him know when a team is offside, what is happening on the other side of the scrum, ruck or maul, and the legitimacy of the throw-in at a lineout.

Substitution Controllers: These officials were formerly known as AR4 and AR5. Their duty is to control the substitutions/replacements for the teams. If a team wishes to make a change, the team manager completes a substitution card and hands it to the Substitution Controller assigned to his team, clearly indicating the reason for the personnel change. They then pass these cards to the Technical Zone Manager.

Technical Zone Manager: This official was formerly known as AR6, and sits next to the field. The official will receive the substitution cards from the Substitution Controllers, and will alert the referee that changes are to be made. Once the referee allows changes to be made, the Substitution Controllers will hold up the paddles with the number of the player leaving the field, and the number of the player entering. The Technical Zone Manager will also keep statistics of all changes to ensure that no team make more changes than allowed in Law.

Sideline Manager: This is a fairly new position, and most of this official’s duties would have been handled by the Technical Zone Manager and the Substitution Controllers in the past. This official is responsible for all the sideline areas; this includes the technical zones and the playing enclosure, and all the personnel in these areas. This includes managing the medical personnel allowed to roam next to the field, the water carriers taking refreshments to the players on the field and where and when the substitutes can warm up.

We also have other people assisting the referee, most notably the timekeeper and the TMO, but they will not be next to the field. Most of the above-mentioned people will have direct communication with the referee, to inform him of anything happening that might influence events on the field of play.

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