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An Open Letter to Participants and Fans of Rugby in Wellington


14th May 2021

Clubs (Chairperson, Delegate, Club Captain, Secretary, Presidents, GDO & Junior Convenor)
Colleges (Principals/Headmasters, Key Contacts & Sports Convenors)
WRRA (Referees & Referee Coaches) 

Regrettably, I write to you today because of an escalation in incidents of poor behaviour at fixtures, unacceptable conduct towards match officials, and incidents of foul play (some resulting in injury and requirement of medical intervention). We acknowledge that just under 11,000 women, men and children experienced a fantastic rugby experience last weekend, but we cannot ignore the actions of a small few that bring the game we all love into disrepute.

As such I am asking for your collective support in addressing these matters by sharing this letter within your rugby communities. 

I want to highlight three areas of our game that will receive particular focus at all levels for the remainder of this season. 

Foul Play

In the interests of player welfare, the WRFU is asking all referees and assistant referees to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to foul play in ALL GRADES of College and Senior Rugby. This includes, but is not limited to: 

  • Striking
  • Contact with players in the air
  • Lifting Tackles
  • Head and neck grappling
  • High and dangerous tackles and head contact
  • Kicking/trampling/stomping

Junior Rugby will continue to adopt an educational approach, but any intentional foul play must be dealt with collectively by the referee and coaches.

Poor Conduct Towards Match Officials

Recently there has been several incidents of poor conduct towards match officials. These incidents are unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the WRRA or the WRFU. 

These incidents will be dealt with through normal disciplinary process. I want to take this opportunity to remind you that a zero-tolerance approach towards poor conduct will be taken whether it is a player, coach, manager, spectator that is involved. I have asked our Judicial Chairs to consider this letter when considering sanctioning for any of these matters. 

Poor conduct includes but is not limited to:

  • Physical abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Threatening or intimidatory actions
  • Dissent of decisions
  • Foul language directed at match officials

Venue and Sideline Management

I would like to remind all clubs/colleges of the importance in maintaining standards at grounds, in particular the need to ensure a safe environment is provided for all concerned including participants, team management and supporters. Please make yourselves and all club personnel familiar with the 2021 updated Sideline Management Policy.

I have highlighted the key aspects of this policy here, for Premier & Premier Reserve matches:

  • Each club must appoint a ground manager to ensure this policy is adhered to
  • The playing enclosure for each match is to be fully cordoned off. 
  • Each team can have 2 people designated as First Aiders who must wear the appropriate identifiable ‘Medic’ vest. ONLY one medic is eligible to roam the side line. This person must have a current medical or physiotherapy practicing certificate and must be identified to the WRFU who will authorise their rights to be a roaming medic.
  • Each playing team is permitted to have two designated water carriers who must wear the appropriate identifiable vest (eg: ‘Water Carrier’).
  • All other persons connected with the playing teams who are not permitted in the playing enclosure must remain either behind the rope/fence in the marked technical zone, or alternatively behind the dead ball line rope/fence.

NB For College Rugby, at a minimum, both side lines must be roped off.  Coaches, team management, and replacement players must remain behind the posts at the ends of the field.

In concluding I ask that you share this letter within your Club or School and collectively work together to rectify this poor conduct which has reappeared this season. 

Good luck for any matches tomorrow and the remainder of the season.

Yours Sincerely,


Sunil Surujpal

Rugby Board Chairman
Wellington Rugby Football Union Inc.