Rugby Union: Referees ponder their costly decision

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Some fairly important people seem to have been overlooked during all the discussions about rugby union going professional - the middle men have barely had a mention. The time is coming when a decision has to be made as to whether referees should be paid.

This morning a questionnaire from Steve Griffiths, the Rugby Football Union's referee development officer, will drop on the mats of the 75 top referees in the country asking them for their views on payment.

Brian Campsall, one of England's top referees, said at the weekend that he thought they should be. "I don't think we could become full-time professionals unless it is on a worldwide basis so that you would work in the southern hemisphere winter once the European season ended," he said. "But I do think that there has to be a match fee.

"As to who pays it, that is for the powers-that-be. But, over the last five years, referees have come under increasing pressure due to the growing significance of promotion and relegation in the Courage Leagues and the consequent importance of any and all decisions a referee may make."

Griffiths, who held out the possibility of a sponsor being found for next season, pointed out the insurmountable immediate problem. "The problem is there is no money as yet to pay them," he said.

Referees currently receive a 20 pence per mile allowance (less than half the recommended AA figure); if they travel more than 300 miles round trip they receive pounds 5 towards a meal allowance; when their journey is more than three hours one way, then they are allowed to claim up to a maximum of pounds 50 for a hotel stay the night before a match.

Whatever happens, it is unlikely that they would receive as much as their counterparts in football. Referees are paid pounds 325 by the Football Association for taking charge of a Premiership match, while the Football League pay their match officials pounds 175 per game. Expenses are more realistic as well, with 35 pence per mile being the going rate and a meal allowance of up to pounds 20 and hotel bills where necessary and within reason. It will take a wealthy sponsor for rugby referees to match that.