RFL Confirm New Full Time Match Officials And New Sponsor

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Leading referees Richard Silverwood, Ben Thaler, Ashley Klein, Ian Smith, Phil Bentham and Steve Ganson have been appointed to the RFL’s newly-created full time match official posts.

The news comes on the day that Engage Mutual assurance – title sponsors of the Engage Super League – and the RFL are announcing an additional sponsorship agreement to support both the RFL’s match officials and the match officials recruitment and development programme.

The partnership means the engage Mutual assurance logo will appear on the front and rear of all RFL match officials’ shirts and also represents an increase in investment in grass roots Rugby League by the financial services brand. The grass-roots element of this significant sponsorship has also been supported by a Sportsmatch award.

The RFL’s full time match officials are already two months into their newly created pre-season training and preparation schedule. Their posts were created in 2006 as an element of the Super League Strategy, which sets out a vision for the future of the sport’s elite competition. They are also being part-funded by the engage Super League clubs.

Stuart Cummings, the RFL’s Match Officials Director, said:

“We believe the newly created full time environment is already allowing our referees to make significant physical fitness gains as well as enhancing their professional ability as match officials.

“Once the season is underway they will have the opportunity to prepare fully for matches and analyse their own performances in detail.

“The overall effect will be to contribute to improving the quality and on-field standards of both Engage Super League and the sport at all levels”.

Cummings added:

“Engage Mutual assurance’s support for the RFL’s development programmes in this area is important and will assist the delivery of courses to bring more qualified match officials into the sport.

“At grass roots level, more match officials means more games can be played…thus sustaining and developing Rugby League”.

Also commenting on the news, Andrew Haigh ,Chief Executive of Engage Mutual Assurance said:

“Our sponsorship of the Engage Super League match officials further strengthens our involvement with the sport and we are delighted to support a project which has real benefits from the grass roots level right to the very top of the game”.

The appointment of full time Match Officials has been accompanied by further changes which see the RFL Development department delivering match official recruitment programmes and the match officials department giving sole focus to all aspects of match officials’ performance.

Full time match official profiles

Ashley Klein, 27 - made his Engage Super League debut in 2003 and took charge of the Engage Super League Grand Final in 2005. Last year he refereed the final of the Gillette Tri-Nations competition in Sydney between Australia and New Zealand.

Richard Silverwood, 30 - officiated the 2006 Challenge Cup Final between St Helens and Huddersfield Giants. He made his Engage Super League debut in 2001.

Ben Thaler, 25 - made his Engage Super League debut in 2005. He controlled the Northern Rail Cup Final in the same year and has also benefited from a referee exchange programme in New Zealand.

Steve Ganson, 37 - has been refereeing in Engage Super League for more than a decade, having made his top flight debut in August 1996. He has taken charge of two Carnegie World Club Challenge matches, the Challenge Cup Final, the Engage Super League Grand Final and the Gillette Tri-Nations Final.

Phil Bentham, 35 - made his debut as an Engage Super League referee in September 2005. He was touch judge in the 2003 Ashes Test series and the 2005 Challenge Cup Final.

Ian Smith, 41 - was National League Referee of the Year in 1999 and 2000. His first Engage Super League fixture was in August 1999, just one year after taking charge of his first professional clash.