The Betfred Rugby League Challenge Cup kicks off this weekend with a new look for match officials which reflects the sport's determination to promote better behaviour from players and supporters.
Referees in each of the 18 ties – two of which will be streamed live and free by the BBC and TheSportsman.com – will be wearing RefCam, the head-mounted cameras for match officials which will be adopted across the community game in 2023 after successful trials last year. The cameras will support referees in encouraging respectful behaviour and enforcing discipline, and recordings could be used by both officials and players during disciplinary proceedings.
Stuart Fraser takes charge of Saturday’s tie between Edinburgh Eagles and Saddleworth Rangers (BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport Online, 1.15pm), while the local derby between Wigan St Patricks and Ince Rose Bridge (The Sportsman, 3pm) will be officiated by Freddie Lincoln.
Super League referee Liam Moore, the RFL’s Match Official Recruitment and Development Manager, says:
“I’m thrilled to see RefCam being rolled out in 2023 – it promises to be a real game-changer on so many levels. Addressing player and touchline behaviours is an obvious benefit, and there are other benefits too. Recordings will be used for referee development as well as disciplinary panel purposes. In 2022 a player on the receiving end of a particular decision was even able to prove mistaken identity.”
The investment in RefCams is part of the RFL's 'Enjoy the Game' campaign, which aims to promote a positive playing environment at all levels of the game.
Liam Moore adds:
“Poor behaviours are driving people away from many sports and Rugby League is no different. Without match officials there is no game, so we have to act and I’m delighted that Rugby League is once again leading the way. Other sports will undoubtedly follow suit.
“We’re grateful that the Rugby League’s Community Board, BARLA and Community Game leagues are supporting this initiative.”
200 RefCams have been distributed to local referees’ societies and they will be worn by officials across the Community Game, particularly in junior and youth leagues.