Phil Clarke Joins St Helens RLRS

Our newest member Phil Clarke stands with Society colleague Innes Arnold after he was presented with his Society polo shirt.
Innes Arnold stands with his new Society colleague Phil Clarke after presenting him with his Society polo shirt.

Former International Rugby League star and Sky Sports pundit, Phil Clarke, has joined St Helens RLRS as an honorary member in his bid to understand and support Rugby League Match Officials.

“Rugby League needs new Referees, let’s find them together! The importance of referees and the work of Societies like St Helens is crucial to securing the future of our sport.”

Phil Clarke

Phil was pleased, this month, to be offered honorary membership by St Helens RLRS which he accepted with open arms, excited to get involved with the society to help boost our objectives to recruit, develop, mentor, and retain referees for the benefit of all levels of rugby league.

“It is vital for the future of the Sport to find and encourage new officials. Whether men or women, boys or girls, whether former players or those who wanted to play but never got a chance: all followers of the game can consider having a go with a whistle or a flag.”

Phil Clarke

The former GB captain and team manager accepted an invitation to speak at a society meeting back in November and experienced something unexpected.

“I went along to share a few funny stories and anecdotes about my career involved in many aspects of rugby league, but I came away having learned much more. In a whole lifetime in the sport, I was amazed that I had not engaged with many match officials or noticed just how passionate about the game and hardworking they are.

We all know the saying that without a referee we would have no game to enjoy, yet fans, players and coaches are quick to criticise their work. Despite having flack thrown at them from all quarters, they love the game. Like players, they work so hard at fitness, positioning, communication and teamwork, and how to stay calm enough to manage conflicting interests under pressure.”

Phil Clarke
Meeting with Phil Clarke as Guest Speaker
Phil posing with members for a team photo taken when he gave a talk at the November General Meeting in 2018.

At St Helens, like many other referee societies, accept new members aged 12 and over. There is no upper age limit nor any discrimination on grounds of gender, race, religion, sexuality, size nor any other diversity.

In the last 15 seasons, more than a dozen St Helens members, boys and girls aged 14-18 have officiated at the Challenge Cup Final curtain raisers at Wembley and the Millennium stadiums.

In 2019, thirteen current St Helens RLRS members officiate in the professional ranks. Four members, between them, have crossed the Atlantic to officiate on fifteen of the Toronto Wolfpack’s home games. They also cover the local youth and community game. After one trans-Atlantic trip, one of them landed at Gatwick in the morning and drove directly to the Totally Wicked Stadium to touch judge a Y10 St Helens schools final in the afternoon.  It is not uncommon for members to officiate more than a hundred games a year.  One of our life members, Martyn Haigh, who was the world’s first Video Referee back in 1996, clocked up his 1500th career outing in September 2017 is still refereeing university and colleges rugby, now aged 73.

“It’s the same all over the country.  If there are rugby league fixtures being arranged, there is an insatiable demand for officials.  There are never enough.  If anybody wants to give it a go, the opportunities are there for them, and everybody with the game’s future at heart must do everything possible to encourage them.”

Phil Clarke

If you would like to follow in Phil’s footsteps and join us then come along to one of our weekly training sessions held at Sutton Lesuire Centre, St Helens on Monday evenings from 7 pm.