The Rugby Football Union’s decision to make long-serving referee JP Doyle redundant has received a strong backlash from fans across the Gallagher Premiership. This brings to an end the Irishman’s 14-year association with the Premiership, where he refereed the 2014 and 2017 finals which both coincidentally went to extra time. 

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Despite the referee’s reputation and experience, there are claims that the RFU are facing losses of up to £107million and that 139 jobs across the organisation must go as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Consequently, the ten-strong full-time panel of referees were told their jobs were also on the line.

Although these are unforeseen circumstances, that has not dampened the reaction on social media about Doyle. The feeling is that English rugby has lost one of the best referees it has. Moreover, there have been suggestions as to where the RFU may be able to cut costs elsewhere. 

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Referee JP Doyle guests on The Lockdown, the RugbyPass pandemic interview series

In a sport where the referee is a key influence on how much fans enjoy the spectacle, a decision like this warrants the reaction of supporters being taken into account. 

The Dubliner, who is not a particularly whistle-happy referee, endeared himself to viewers due to the flow of the game that was created. 


With Doyle, 41, now effectively a free agent, many feel this is an opportunity for the Guinness PRO14 to swoop and bolster their ranks. 

Of course, all leagues will be under financial pressure at the moment, but this is a chance that some feel should not go begging. 

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Former Ireland and Munster hooker Jerry Flannery, who is now working as lineout coach for Harlequins, is part of the campaign for the PRO14 to make a move for his compatriot, saying the league would “benefit hugely” from recruiting him.

The PRO14 season is set to resume is 2019/20 season this weekend and the consensus is that Doyle is a referee who is too good to be out of the game too long. 

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