The Welsh Rugby Union's Director of Referees, Mr. Clive Norling, will relinquish his post at the end of the current season. The 52-year-old former international referee, who took over the role from Mr Ken Rowlands in March 1988, will have been at the helm of Welsh refereeing affairs for five years by the end of his term.
Refereeing demands have changed radically during his tenure with huge financial gains and losses hanging on refereeing decisions, and far greater scrutiny from the media in general, and television in particular. It was to that background that Mr. Norling set about to professionalise the refereeing structure and modernize the training and development programmes.
As a consequence Wales currently has three full time professional referees, all of whom are making excellent progress on the International Rugby Board's Refereeing Panel.
" Rugby has undergone some dramatic changes during my tenure," said Mr. Norling. " There is no
better feeling than responding to the challenges that change demands, despite working within the constraints and increased pressure of the post, and to that extent it has been an extremely stimulating period.
"I have given this notice so as to ensure that the Union has sufficient time to find a replacement and that the transference of responsibility is as smooth as possible."
Mr. Norling retired from full time refereeing in 1992 having officiated at more international matches than any other referee. Subsequently his record of 35 Tests was overtaken by fellow Welshman Derek Bevan, who reached 44.
He served as Director of Rugby at Bridgend Rugby Club for two seasons between 1992-94 and was elected as a National Representative on the WRU General Committee for season 1997-98.
WRU Group Chief Executive Mr. David Moffett expressed his disappointment at the prospective loss of his Director of Refereeing.
"Clive's name has for decades been instantly recognisable world wide because of the manner in which he refereed," he said.
"He was a big man in every way and hugely respected. He brought that respect with him into his current post and it is an element that will be greatly missed with his departure. I wish him every success in his future ventures."
The WRU's Director of Rugby, Mr. Terry Cobner, crossed paths with his Director of Refereeing during his playing days and saw the poignancy of the boot being on the other foot.
"Having endured the odd lecture or two from Clive during his refereeing days it has been nice to be in a position where I could wag my finger. Not that I needed to, because Clive was as comfortable with these responsibilities as he was with his whistle," he said.
"It has benefited both of us to have worked within the same department and share some our experiences and I will be sorry to see him go."
When he completes his duties at the end of May, Clive will devote his time to completing his PhD in Business Management.
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.