Even more worrying is the level and nature of abuse within Under 12 to Under 19 rugby. A range of offences at this level include verbal abuse of referees at age groups from Under 12 to Under 19, physical abuse, abuse from parents, assault by spectators, physical intimidation of a referee and even spitting at a referee at an Under 12 fixture.
WRU General Manager Steve Lewis said, "In October 2004, the Director of Match Officials wrote to all clubs and organisations highlighting once again that referees were being subjected to abuse. Originally we referred to 'an unacceptable level of abuse', but we have now adopted a zero tolerance approach and regard any abuse as unacceptable.
"The WRU Board of Directors fully supports our stance on this matter as this is having a detrimental effect on the recruitment and retention of referees. It is incumbent on all clubs and organisations to ensure that matches are played in a safe environment and to that end all involved in the game - players, club officials and spectators - should adhere to the WRU Code of Conduct. Failure to do so will result in severe sanctions being imposed on any club or organisation."
WRU Director of Match Officials Robert Yeman added, "The WRU is determined to rid the game of unacceptable behaviour aimed towards match officials. With no match able to be played without a qualified referee officiating, there are serious consequences to the game as a whole when referees decide to hang up the whistle. It means that for every referee lost to the game, there is a void of at least 20 games that cannot always be filled. More often than not, this affects the lifeblood of the game - youth and lower level matches"
The campaign involves clubs and organisations being asked to display two posters outlining the importance of respecting match officials in a prominent place in their clubhouse (please see attached posters) and asking them to enforce the Code of Conduct by getting the message across to their players, coaches, officials and supporters. Many clubs have already shown their support for the initiative.