Somerset Rugby Football Union Disciplinary Committee has escalated the punishment for referee abuse in local rugby matches.

The RFU has grown extremely concerned regarding the number of cases of Match Official Abuse already reported to the Panel this season.

A spokesperson from the Somerset RFU said: "Abuse of Match Officials (including non-appointed/volunteer touch judges) on and off the field is totally unacceptable and shall not be tolerated.

"As we are sure you are aware, there is a desperate shortage of match officials to cover all the matches played across Somerset.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult for the Referees’ Society to not only recruit new members but also to retain current members, and abuse of officials (from players and spectators) is given as one of the causes of this."

With this in mind, the RFU has confirmed that for all Proven cases involving Match Official Abuse has come from matches after September 1, 2023, the Somerset Disciplinary Panel will consider a minimum automatic aggravation of 2 weeks (1 match for Age Grade under 18 & below) over and above the RFU Sanctions.

It will enforce appropriately severe sanctions against spectators and or clubs in respect of Match Official abuse by spectators or non playing members of clubs.

Referees and non appointed /volunteer touch judges freely give up their time throughout the rugby season because of their love and support for the game and to ensure that rugby can be played for the enjoyment of players and spectators.

The RFU added: "Naturally, we should all be encouraging and supporting our Match Officials at every opportunity, as without them there would be no rugby!

"This support must come from players, coaches and spectators alike – you have a responsibility for the behaviour of all your members."

Clubs are reminded that they should ensure that abuse to match officials does not take place and must take all necessary steps to prevent this.