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Meet the Referee - Wayne Barnes

By Mark H
April 24 2005

For the second of our interviews with the Premiership referees, we were very lucky in that Sean Davey managed to get us some words with Wayne Barnes, the newest of the full time officials.

Like Sean, Wayne was promoted to the Elite list at the start of the 2003/04 season, gaining that promotion after just four years on the National Panel after being elected to the Panel at the age of 21. He remains the youngest of the Elite referees, having just turned 26, and doubles up as a Sevens expert, having just returned from the World Cup in Hong Kong.

At the start of this month, Wayne became the sixth full time referee in the Premiership. His last visit to Kingston Park was just under a year ago, for the London Irish match in which Mathew Tait made a try-scoring debut.

How did you get into refereeing?

I wasn’t a good player! I also had the injury habit, which wasn’t brilliant for a second row as such a young age. I got my chance to start refereeing at school, taking it up as a fifteen year old.

Was it a difficult decision to go full time and why?

Yes, but it was inevitable due to the financial situation. I was taking a great deal of time off from my work as a criminal law barrister, and being self-employed, something had to give.

What is the hardest match you have refereed this season?

Worcester v Saracens at the end of March, a bloody tough game, especially the second half. I’ve been away doing the iRB Sevens circuit, so coming back to fifteen a side can be a shock to the system. The Zurich Premiership is the toughest league in the world, so I guess I should have expected it!

Who are the hardest teams/players to referee?

Everyone! I have to be diplomatic!

How was Hong Kong?

Fantastic! A wonderful event and experience for me, not only for the best Sevens I’ve ever seen, but also socially. The whole atmosphere and occasion was electric.

How do you handle criticism from assessors, the Directors of Rugby, and supporters?

Regarding the assessors, I don’t see their input as criticism. I listen to what development points they give, and use it to help me progress and develop as a referee. With the Directors of Rugby, it’s ok, but only as long as it is accurate and constructive.

As for the supporters…they pay their money; they can say what they want!

Many thanks to Wayne for sparing the time (just before a referees meeting), and to Sean Davey for organising the interview for us.

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