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Top English rugby ref hits out at Gary Neville remarks

By Ian Cameron
Referee Christophe Ridley during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Exeter Chiefs and Leicester Tigers at Sandy Park on September 10, 2022 in Exeter, United Kingdom. (Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Gallagher Premiership referee Christophe Ridley has hit out at remarks made by ITV football pundit Gary Neville following England’s exit from the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.


Neville was scathing of the referee in the wake of England 2-1 loss to reigning champions France, both on air and on Twitter. Neville tweeted: “Ref is a joke!” following a number of controversial calls that didn’t go England’s way.

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His comment has received over 130,000 likes.

Ridley criticised Neville’s stance, pointing out the ‘ripple effect’ of such comments, which can have consequences for referees at all level of the game and indeed, other sports.

“The ripple effect of this tweet impacts refereeing standards in the long term,” wrote Ridley on Twitter. “Even for those who do pick up a whistle, in the end all you’re left with is the referees that are able to tolerate and survive … not the actual best referees!

“Unknowingly this damages the game.”


It is widely taken that grassroots rugby suffers from a trickle-down effect from the professional game. There’s also a perception that the effect of refereeing abuse in the vastly more popular round ball game, where such behaviour has become normalised, is also spilling over into rugby on social media.

Rugby union has it’s own, homemade problems to deal with in this area. Bans have been handed out recently to high-profile coaches for targeting referees in post-press conferences and on social media in recent weeks.

Former referee Greg Garner told RugbyPass recently that he believes that the narrative around referees not being held accountable is simply not true.


“I strongly disagree with those who say there is no accountability and this is the best way to drive up refereeing standards,” he said.

“You only have to look at this current period leading up to a World Cup to see that 18 referees have been given matches. Only 12 of them will get to France 23 – and that process is all about performance assessment.

“If you go back to the last World Cup, some very experienced international referees didn’t make the final cut because in the eyes of World Rugby they weren’t performing well enough at the time, so I really struggle to see how there’s no consequences?


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