International Referees

International Referees from Durham 

The Magnificent 7 Plus

The title ‘The Magnificent 7’ would have been quite apt a few years ago as it was believed that there were only 7 male referees who had attained International status.  However, Nikki O’Donnell progressed so well she attained International Referee Tier 1 status in the Women’s game in February 2018.   Further research then unearthed another 2 male referees from the early days. The title has been retained with one small alteration as it adds something to the glamour regarding the status which all these individuals have achieved. The ‘Plus’ is not meant to demean or undermine in any way that status which all these individuals attained but only to emphasise that it hopefully could be added to in the future.

An attempt has been made to complete pen portraits for all 10 of our International Referees
*(For the purpose of this document and aligning with the RFU definition a Male International referee is someone who has refereed Tier 1 v Tier 1.)  Whilst it may appear to be an easy task to find information this has not proved to be the case and there is a significant lack of information for some whilst there is no shortage of information about others. The portraits are not set in stone and will be modified as and when further relevant information becomes available.

Of course, there are others who have refereed Tier 2 or Age Level Internationals but as you might appreciate getting information on these individuals and the games they refereed will be extremely challenging especially going back in time.

The key is that we recognise that there have been 9 male referees and 1 female referee from Durham County who have attained this eminent status, there being only 83 males and 4 Females of this ilk nationally to date in the 150 years of the game. A number have also played significant roles in other elements of County, Regional and National Refereeing administration such as Humphreys, Hill, Marsh, Bean, Elliott and  Pearson. These roles are clearly highlighted in their pen portraits.

The following are our International Referees (with debut)

W H Humphries       04/02/1893   Scotland v Wales            Number 12  

A Hill                        22/01/1902   Ireland v Scotland           Number

F H R Alderson        28/02/1903   Ireland v Scotland           Number 

F W Marsh               09/03/1907   Wales v Ireland               Number 26            

E Holmes                 05/12/1931   Wales v South Africa       Number 42   

A  S Bean                04/02/1939   Wales v Scotland             Number 46          

H B Elliott                08/01/1955   France v Scotland            Number 51       

H B Keenan            01/12/1963   Ireland v New Zealand      Number 59

J J M Pearson         21/01/1995   France v Wales                Number 73

N O’Donnell            10/11/2018   Wales v South Africa

Whilst much of the information which has been produced can be corroborated there are other elements which cannot and where this is the case it is highlighted. No doubt further information regarding these individuals will continue to be forthcoming and their profiles modified.

The history of refereeing over the 150 years has changed significantly. Our forbears hung doggedly to the need for referees to be amateurs. The overt change to professionalism, which occurred in 1995, also had its effect on referees. Even at the pinnacle of the game the financial rewards were initially minimal. John Pearson was offered a match fee of £200 or his wife’s expenses to referee the France v Wales game in 1995. Today the figure for a Premiership assistant referee exceeds this sum.   Travelling expenses for Durham Society referees were initially 3rd class rail fare and 2/6d (121/2 pence) for hotel. Other reasonable expenses were then added.  It has to be remembered that much of the travelling which was done by the early referees was by train and this would be the same for international referees until the 1970s. Not easy although there was a far more extensive rail system prior to Dr Beechings axe. A look at the countries which Pearson has visited demonstrates the way that air travel has facilitated much greater travel for referees. From a Durham Society point of view the exchanges to South Africa, Sri Lanka, Potomac and Catalonia that members of the Society have undertaken clearly illustrates this.

 John Pearson

June 2021