Respect Rugby Report Shortfalls

By Ron Wood

In a couple of earlier Rogues Rants this year I spoke of problems in the IDRU in regard to Referee numbers. I suggested that we should seek comment from Referees who have recently given active Refereeing away to determine just why the decision to stand down from active Refereeing was made. I have since had responses from the two Referees referred to in Rant #312, Ethan McIntosh and Andrew Strode. There responses are attached below.

Both Referees were subjected to abuse during the 2021 season. One event at which I was actually present was a particularly nasty example of the sort of thing that can and does too often occur. Both Referees followed the Respect Rugby Process as advised to do and submitted the appropriate paperwork to support their complaint. Both Referees expressed their disappointment in the manner in which their complaints were handled and the fact that there was no official follow up from the Respect Rugby Report.

There surely is something wrong with the system if the instigator of a Respect Rugby Report does not get any feedback at the completion of the investigation process. This must be corrected.

Both these young men in my opinion could quite possibly return to active Refereeing if they could be reassured that the process of dealing with the sort of abuse that they were subjected to was dealt with in a more efficient and consistent manner.

Their letters make for interesting reading and I’m sure that there would be other former Referees who have similar experiences and opinions.

Letter from Ethan McIntosh                                                                 9th June 2022

I chose to sit out this season for a number of reasons and many of these stemmed from a major incident of referee abuse at Campbelltown. While the incident itself was particularly ugly, I felt more affected by the circumstances around the follow up to the incident.

I felt let down by the manner in which the incident was handled by the IDRU Board. I feel certain that if the investigation of the incident had been handled by the IDRU Judiciary as normal, the outcome would have been quite different.

My own perception through last season was that, where incidents occurred, they seemed to be swept under the rug as quickly as possible to avoid ‘bad press’.

It was frustrating to hear of other referee abuse cases through the season where there was either inaction or weak punishments handed down. It certainly didn’t make me feel supported by the district as a referee, instead having to rely on my referee colleagues. It became very apparent that following the Respect Rugby procedures as I had been instructed to do was a waste of time and they weren’t worth the paper they were written on. There appeared to be no follow up at all by NSW Rugby to ensure the IDRU was fulfilling their responsibilities in this process.

At the end of the day, it wasn’t an easy decision to step away, nor one that I took lightly. However, I felt that continuing to referee in such an environment and ‘put up with it’ would do nothing to break the cycle.


Ethan McIntosh


Andrew Strode Letter                                                                           24th June 2022

Stepping away from refereeing was a tough choice but I felt it was necessary to send the right message over ref abuse. I think it’s important to state that I didn’t stop because of the abuse itself – that doesn’t really worry me. I feel like I’m experienced enough to keep it in perspective.

What really concerned me and frustrated me was the inaction by the IDRU in using/following the respect rugby process. In fact, here we are in the middle of 2022 and I still haven’t been informed of the outcome of two of my reports from May and June last year. That process is there to protect and support referees and to have it so obviously disregarded is completely unacceptable.

Disappointingly, when I reached out to NSW Rugby to intervene and asked them to provide support and counsel to the IDRU to ensure that the process was followed, I did not receive a reply.

Ultimately, the difficult decision not to ref this year was more about the young refs. They need to feel like they are supported by all levels of the game and I saw too many examples last year where that just didn’t happen. I figured if I went back without any changes, it would send the wrong message. In not refereeing I guess I hoped that a strong message would be sent that there are consequences to inaction.


Andrew Strode