- Former Test official “delighted” with new role
- “Referees are so important to the integrity of the game” – Spreadbury
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Tony Spreadbury has been appointed RFU Head of Professional Game Match Officials having led the referees’ department this season.
His role will be to lead in the development of match officials in the professional game across England and to create the best performance system for all areas of match officiating.
“I am delighted to have been appointed and look forward to driving the development of our elite referees,” Spreadbury said.
“Their role is so important to the integrity of the game and I want to get them all closer, as a group, to work towards even greater accuracy and consistency. I would like them to be looked upon as the 13th team.”
RFU Professional Rugby Director Rob Andrew added: “Tony is hugely respected across the game, first on the pitch and latterly as a referee coach.
“He has been instrumental in taking the department to the next level and the development of JP Doyle is just one example. With match officials under increasing scrutiny and pressure as rugby continues to grow, Tony will continue to be at the forefront of ensuring they fulfil their duties to the game in the best way possible.”
Rugby Director at Premiership Rugby Phil Winstanley said: “Premiership Rugby is delighted to see the appointment of Tony Spreadbury as the Head of the Professional Game Match Officials. The role of the match officials and the pressure on them increases on an annual basis and it is absolutely essential that we provide the right support and development opportunities to prepare them for the challenges of Aviva Premiership Rugby.
“Aviva Premiership Rugby has 51 per cent of its games settled within a single score and the accuracy of decision-making and the quality of the match officials is crucial to maintaining such a competitive league.”
Following his retirement as a referee after the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Spreadbury took up the position of Referee Development Manager within the RFU administration.
‘Spreaders’, as he is commonly known throughout the game, was for many years a popular referee known for his humour, who combined officiating with a career as a paramedic before taking up the role full-time in 2001.
He first blew a whistle at 17, after an injury caused him to stop playing as hooker. At Coombe Down RFC he even refereed his father playing prop for the third team.
Added to the IRB Refereeing Panel in 1984, he took charge of his first Test match on 9 June 1990, between Australia and France. One of the game’s first fully professional referees, he subsequently officiated at the 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups and 44 Internationals.