Issued on behalf of International Rugby Match Officials

The world’s first representative body for international high performance match officials launched on Tuesday with the dual objective of supporting officials on and off the field and furthering their voice within World Rugby’s structures.

Established with the support of World Rugby to promote and protect the interests of match officials, International Rugby Match Officials (IRMO), will facilitate key interactions between the global governing body and match officials selected for men’s and women’s international 15s and sevens competitions, enhancing alignment and communication.

With leading match officials increasingly involved in World Rugby’s decision-making process to enhance safety and spectacle, IRMO will input into discussions and decisions in relation to future laws and protocols development and audience education, while providing a collective voice on tournament provisions and conditions that underpin a high-performance environment at the international level of the game.

Significantly, the body will also promote the development of officiating as an exciting career path and refereeing more generally, inspiring the next generation while championing the values that are at the heart of the sport’s culture of respect and togetherness that attracts new participants, officials and fans.

IRMO’s key objectives are:

  • To act as a representative body for its members on World Rugby committees and in discussions around the laws of the game, relevant game-related protocols and high performance standards at tournaments for match officials
  • To promote and support the physical and mental wellbeing of members
  • To promote the development of high-performance match officials and inspire more young people to take up officiating
  • To promote the values of the game that are central to the sport’s growth

IRMO’s members include record-breaker Wayne Barnes, the most-capped referee in test history with 101 matches, and Rugby World Cup 2021 and Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 final referee Hollie Davidson.

Barnes said: “Today’s launch represents an important development for the recognition and support of rugby match officials on the world stage. For the first time there will be a collective voice and support network for international referees and television match officials, championing matters of interest ranging from physical and mental wellbeing promotion to upholding the sport’s values and representing international match officials within World Rugby decision-making structures.”

Davidson said: “IRMO will play an important role in supporting and nurturing the current and next generation of international match officials, working with stakeholders such as World Rugby to provide the platform for our members to be the best they can be on the world stage, while providing inspiration for the next generation to take up the whistle.”

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin welcomed the establishment of the body, stating: “Match officials are fundamental to the sport and their role is greater than the matches they officiate. They are ambassadors, champions of our values and increasingly contributing to the future shape of the sport through their game expertise.

“The establishment of IRMO importantly provides both a voice and a support mechanism for the world’s top match officials and will better formalise the interactions between them and World Rugby across a range of topics from law review, officiating performance and tournament provisions to commercial opportunities and mental wellbeing, all geared towards enabling them to be the best they can be on and off the field.”

IRMO will hold its first AGM in January prior to the start of the international window when the inaugural Chair and Board members will be elected.