From 50 to 500 – RFU campaign aims to #INSPIRE women to take up refereeing

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From 50 to 500 – RFU campaign aims to #INSPIRE women to take up refereeing

The RFU has launched a nationwide campaign to inspire 500 new female rugby referees to join the sport by the end of 2024.

The #INSPIRE campaign launching today, will celebrate a female referee every day in the build up to the England v Japan Autumn international on November 12th, at which 50 of England’s most inspiring female referees will take to the pitch at Twickenham.

The campaign launched by the RFU is all part of a drive to bring more female referees into the sport as part of the RFU’s Every Rose strategy.

The RFU is launching the campaign in partnership with ACME Whistles and some of the biggest refereeing names in the sport. Each day a brilliant female referee will be celebrated on social media and on, in the build up to the game at Twickenham in November.

“It’s so important to keep women in the sport, and even bring more into rugby,” said Leonie Pryor, RFU Match Official Developer, who created the project.

“With such a dominance on the pitch from the Red Roses, and with our top female referees making a name in both men’s and women’s rugby – there are so many incredible female role models in the sport.

“By sharing some of the incredible stories behind these amazing women, we hope that more players, fans and family – no matter what their age – will look at refereeing as a way to be involved in the sport.

Across England, the number of registered female referees who regularly officiate games is currently lower than the number of registered male referees, something that Leonie and her team are keen to change.

“Having already talked to many of the inspiring women referees from around the UK, it’s the stories of ‘confidence’, ‘teamwork’, ‘community’ and ‘belonging’ that make this such a powerful project.

“You never know – we might even inspire the next Sara Cox, or Hollie Davidson to join refereeing.”

ACME Whistles, whose founder invented the modern-day sports whistle, is backing the campaign by helping to spread the word through its network of elite referee contacts, as well as creating a personalised engraved whistle for each referee involved.

Ben McFarlane, marketing director at ACME Whistles, added: “Over the last year, we have spoken to some of the world’s leading female rugby referees, including Sara Cox, Aimee Barrett-Theron, Hollie Davidson and Kat Roche – all incredibly talented and dedicated elite referees.

“We believe in refereeing talent and recognising the time and effort every referee gives to the sport.

“We are therefore delighted to be able to support a campaign that shines a spotlight on women in rugby and will encourage more women and girls to take up the whistle.

“The stories we have heard so far have been incredible and we are working to create a very special platform to showcase each of the fifty referees and their stories in a digital ‘yearbook’.

“Without referees, we can’t have sport so it’s only right that we are backing this important campaign – #INSPIRE!”

To find out more about the campaign, visit

The first 10 inspiring referee stories:

Yueli Ang

“It would mean a lot to me if I could inspire anyone to pick up the whistle, regardless of their gender. I am excited to be part of the movement to help make women referees a norm. Positivity, strength, confidence!”

Rheanna White

“I have played my whole life, but due to knowing a lot of refs I decided to give refereeing a go myself and I haven’t looked back since.”

Sophie Mochrie

“I want to be a part of the history of rugby becoming the most inclusive game.

I also want to prove myself to the people who might’ve seen me referee and think I can’t do it and show them that actually I can and that they shouldn’t judge me just because I’m young or because I’m a woman.”

Emily Willet

“I love being able to support people to play the sport they enjoy and being able to play a small part in making that happen.”

Alison Fox

“As referees, we enable the games to take place. I love seeing the passion amongst the players and I feel I build a good rapport with them. I referee mostly men’s games and feel safe and respected.”

Amanda Arnold

“I’m a geeky engineer who almost never played rugby or refereed. I don’t want anyone else to miss the chance of getting on the pitch. The rugby community is great and it’s important to maintain and grow the numbers participating in all roles to stay physically and mentally fit in a team sport.”

Amy Powell

“I have been involved with rugby for the last 8 years – both playing and more recently refereeing. It is my life and I love it. I am a PE teacher so during the first two terms I coach rugby, but I also play rugby and referee. I have always been sporty and love the teamwork and support you get from rugby.”

Lucy Smith

“Rugby has given me a lot to be thankful for. I suffered a highly traumatic event as a youngster and rugby allowed me to have a purpose and an outlook. I will always be grateful to Dave Turner at Exeter Saracens for ensuring that was an opportunity for young girls from every walk of life to come to a safe environment to just be me. If it was not for rugby I do not know where my life path could have taken me.”

Megan Seward

“Without the refereeing team matches cannot happen. Inspiring young and current players to play and also allowing vets to enjoy a sport they once played is so important.”

Nia Parsonage

“I love the challenge of refereeing. Every team and every game is different. I’ve learned so many life skills from refereeing that have served me well in my professional career.

It’s also my de-stressor, as odd as that sounds! Being able to “switch off” from other things going on in my life to run around on a pitch where I need 100% focus. I’m forced to be present when I referee, and it’s also good to keep general health and fitness up.”

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