A CHESTER referee joined 49 other inspiring female officials at Twickenham to mark the launch of a new campaign with the aim of attracting more female referees to the sport.

Alison Fox visited the iconic stadium ahead of a match between England Men and Japan on Saturday, November 12. Brought together by The Rugby Football Union (RFU) and ACME Whistles the 50 referees surrounded the national flags on the pitch, alongside the players and dignitaries during the national anthems, in front of the 81,000 strong crowd.

The project, led by RFU Match Official Developer and referee, Leonie Pryor, is part of a drive to bring more female match officials into the game – ultimately with the goal of inspiring 500 new female rugby referees by the end of 2024 as part of the RFU’s ‘Every Rose strategy’.

"Seeing these amazing women taking to the pitch ahead of the game this weekend in front of a packed Twickenham gave me goosebumps," said Pryor.

"Each of the referees who joined us is such a credit to the sport and seeing them all come together and share this amazing experience – whilst also sending out a call for others to join in the movement – was incredible."

Ahead of the game, each of the referees at the stadium were presented with a one-of-a-kind ACME whistle, to recognize their contribution to the sport.

Ms Pryor said: "We all got together pitch side before the game and blew our commemorative ACME whistle to mark the start of this incredible campaign. The sound of 50 whistles reverberating around the ground was enough to stop everyone in their tracks."

Chester referee, Alison discussed her motivations for picking up the whistle: "To stay fit and to give back to community rugby as well as the sense of belonging and friendship that rugby has given me. That would never exist if there was no game."

Across England, the number of registered female referees who regularly officiate games is currently lower than the number of registered male referees, something that Leonie and her team are keen to change.

Leonie Pryor added: "Having already talked to many of the inspiring women referees from around the UK, it’s the stories of ‘confidence’, ‘teamwork’, ‘community’ and ‘belonging’ that make this such a powerful project.

"You never know – we might even inspire the next Sara Cox, or Hollie Davidson to join refereeing."

ACME Whistles, whose founder invented the modern-day sports whistle, has supported the campaign through its network which has helped the campaign reach the rugby community across the country.

Ben McFarlane, marketing director at ACME Whistles, said: "The referee is central to any rugby game – whether that’s at a community or international level.

"It’s been an honor to celebrate the amazing stories of the 50 referees who joined us at the weekend, and only hope it helps inspire the next wave of female referees into the sport."

For further information on the campaign, visit: www.ruck.co.uk/inspire/ or https://keepyourbootson.co.uk/.