Local man Robert Hicks has been appointed the RFL’s Director of Operations and Legal, meaning his video refereeing role at the France versus England international double header in Perpignan was his last as a full-time match official.
Brought up on Oldham RLFC and Saddleworth Rangers, Robert, who turned 40 last month, has been a member of the RFL’s panel of full-time officials since 2011, when he also joined the RFL’s legal team.
Now that balance will shift, with his primary focus on the Operations and Legal role, although he will continue as a part-time official, with a focus on offering support to developing young talent.
His father, Ray, a former Oldham player, is well known in the local rugby league community and is heavily involved in the Oldham RLFC Players’ Association.
Steve Ganson, the RFL’s Head of Match Officials, said:
“In thanking and congratulating Robert for his contribution as a full-time official for the last decade, I’m also delighted that his knowledge and experience will still be available to us, both as a referee and touch-judge, and as a mentor to younger officials.
“He has been a key figure in our full-time group and is liked and respected by match officials at all levels, for his love of the sport and his commitment to it.”
Robert, a former head boy at Hulme Grammar, said:
“I’ve loved being part of the full-time officials squad, as much for the team spirit and togetherness as for the big matches I’ve been involved in.
“But this is the right time and reason for me to revert to a part-time and mentoring role, allowing me to devote the majority of my time to Operations and Legal.
“It’s a wide-ranging role covering all areas of regulation, from the Community Game to the Super League.
“They are clearly key areas for the national governing body and I’m looking forward to working closely with Karen Moorhouse and other members of the RFL Board and Executive Board as we all strive for the best for Rugby League.
“I’m grateful to be able to continue as a match official on a part-time basis, whether that’s as a touch-judge, referee or doing some coaching and development work. I spent five seasons on the Grade 1 List from 2006-10 before joining the full-time squad, and the sport is lucky to have so many excellent officials at that level.
“I think there’s been a significant change in attitudes towards match officials in recent weeks as an awareness has spread throughout the sport that the level of abuse, whether verbal or occasionally physical, is completely unacceptable, and is doing real damage to the challenging areas of referee recruitment and retention.
“One of my main priorities in the new role this winter will be a fresh focus on the RFL’s Enjoy the Game and Respect campaigns. It’s so important that all of us in the sport support our officials in this regard.”
Further details of changes to the full-time match officials squad for 2022 will be provided soon.