“No referee, no game” – the oft-uttered words of many a rugby coach, player and supporter. Yet, this does not stop “us” from expressing our dissatisfaction with her/his latest decision. This lecturette explores both the nature of rugby union and rugby refereeing.

Taking a philosophically informed approach and drawing on Collins’ (2010) research, Neil will explore this unique and challenging role, highlighting the referee’s ontological authority and epistemological privilege.

The balance between justice/fairness and game aesthetics will be discussed in relation to the concept of ‘sofanism’ – the all-seeing, all-knowing armchair arbiters of the game.

Neil will be joined by Honorary Fellow Nigel Owens, the world’s most-capped referee and ‘entertainer’, who will share his experiences about how best to maintain order and ‘flow’, and take your questions!

Nigel has been an elite referee for two decades and has refereed so many important and memorable games including the World Cup final 2015 and numerous European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals. 

Biography - Dr Neil Hennessy

A picture of Dr Neil Hennessy.

Dr Neil Hennessy is Principal Lecturer and Programme Director in Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences, Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Having graduated with the BA (Hons) Cymraeg from Swansea University, he then undertook the PGCE Primary at Homerton College, University of Cambridge. He returned to Swansea to read for the MPhil Sport Psychology before completing his Level 7 studies at UWIC, gaining the MSc Coaching Science. Neil was awarded a Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol PhD scholarship and gained his Doctorate in pedagogy and philosophy of sport in 2014.

Following a brief spell as a professional rugby player Neil turned to officiating and was a WRU elite match official and TMO for over a decade. As a referee, Neil worked closely with the WRU's senior and age-grade national squads, providing technical support and analysis. His research into holistic Rugby development has been incorporated into the WRU's coach education programme. ​​

Neil's academic interests include bilingualism, coaching, officiating, pedagogy, and philosophy and ethics of sport.