Morrison leaves RFU

Thu, 05 Sep 2013 20:56
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Ed Morrison, one of rugby's greatest referees, has suddenly left his post as the head of elite referee development on Thursday, 5 September 2013.

Ed Morrison, one of rugby's greatest referees, has suddenly left his post as the head of elite referee development on Thursday, 5 September 2013.

It is surprising. England's premiership is just getting started, a competition in which he was deeply involved in helping referees and also helping clubs with compliance to the laws. His e-mail address has already been cut off.

After playing Morrison started refereeing and became one of the world's top referees. When he retired he had refereed 30 Tests, a huge number for the time. One of those Tests was the dramatic 1995 World Cup Final at Ellis Park, the first time South Africa had participated in the World Cup, winning it with a dramatic dropped goal by Joel Stransky. Only six referees have refereed the World Cup Final - Kerry Fitzgerald of Australia, Derek Bevan of Wales, Morrison, André Watson in 1999 and 2003, Alain Rolland and Craig Joubert. Morrison refereed at World Cups in 1991, 1995 and 1999. The 1995 Final was doubtlessly the pinnacle of his career - when the Boeing flew of Ellis Park, Nelson Mandela was so happily there and a match that seesawed.

Morrison, who looked so calm during the week and then so calm on the field, said of the week: "The week leading to the final is indeed a long one with immense interest from family, friends and media alike, by Friday you just wish to get the game under way however come match day it’s over in a blink of the eye."

There was a calm friendliness about his refereeing and yet he was the first referee to send off a Springbok in a Test - James Small in 1993 for rudeness and in 1999, in injury time, he sent of the Fijian wing Marika Vunibaka for headbutting Canadian Kyle Nicholls.

In 1998 Morrison became the first English referee to be fully professional. After hanging up his whistle, he was employed by the RFU, England's governing body, becoming a development manager in the Elite Referee Unit and then in 2008, in succession to Colin High, he became the head of the unit.

RFU professional rugby director Rob Andrew said: "We are immensely grateful for the role Ed has played both as a successful and respected referee and latterly in developing other senior match officials. He has played a leading part in bringing a professional approach to officiating and, for the past five years, has been responsible for all officiating matters from the Aviva Premiership upwards. Ed has been a fundamental part of the rugby community and I am sure, with his level of expertise, will continue to be very much part of it."

Morrison, a man who clearly loves rugby and refereeing, said in turn:: "Rugby has been such a huge part of my life, initially as a player and as a referee and latterly working to ensure that officiating constantly improves so that the professional game continues to flourish.

"Having broken new ground by becoming the RFU's first full-time professional referee, being part of the formation of the Elite Referee Unit and then taking charge of its development, I feel that now is the right time to hand the reins to a successor to continue the good development work and systems I have helped to put in place."

Premiership Rugby acknowledged Morrison's impact on the game. Its rugby director, Phil Winstanley, said: "Ed has made a huge contribution to the game of rugby union over the last 20 plus years and, in particular, the development of the professional match officials' programme.

"The whole game owes him huge gratitude for his professionalism and commitment as both a referee and a referee manager.

"He has provided magnificent support for Aviva Premiership rugby clubs and has played a big part in the development of our competition.

"Ed has huge respect around the world for what he has achieved, and his departure from the RFU leaves a massive hole to fill."

Damian Hopley, Group CEO of the Rugby Players' Association said: “Ed has been an outstanding rugby man throughout his distinguished career and leaves the game in a much better place than when he started refereeing over decades ago.

"On behalf of the RPA members past and present, I would like to pay tribute to Ed for the leadership he has shown and the way he has conducted himself in helping to shape professional rugby in England and around the world. Ed is someone who always has a smile on his face, regardless of the circumstances, and we have been extremely fortunate to have such an exceptional person involved in the game at the highest level.”