Skip to content

Sports scholar graduates named as match officials for Rugby World Cup

University of Gloucestershire graduates Matthew Carley and Christophe Ridley have been awarded refereeing appointments at rugby union’s 2023 World Cup in a major milestone for a groundbreaking scholarship programme.

Matthew and Christophe were both part of the sports scholarship programme at the University on the officiating pathway – the only one of its kind in the UK – headed up by former World Cup referee Chris White.

They have been named among the 26 match officials for the Rugby World Cup in France (8 September to 28 October) – the first time that two graduates of the unique scholarship scheme have been selected to officiate at the showpiece tournament.

Sports Science graduate Matthew, who was the first person to complete a refereeing scholarship at the University, was an assistant referee at the 2019 World Cup hosted by Japan.

He will be one of the 12 referees at the 2023 World Cup, while Sports Coaching graduate Christophe is one of seven assistant referees. The 26 match officials also include seven Television Match Officials.

Christophe Ridley

Matthew (main image) and Christophe (pictured left) have gained immense experience on the international stage and as established referees in English rugby union’s top domestic competition, the Premiership, since graduating from the scholarship programme at the University.

Chris White, who was referee at the 1999, 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups, runs the referees and officials aspect of the sports scholarships programme at the University alongside his role as the RFU Professional Group of Match Officials Team (PGMOT) Referee coach.

He said: “We’re absolutely thrilled for Matt and Christophe that they have been selected to officiate at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France – it’s such a phenomenal achievement and the pinnacle of every match official’s career.

“Matt and Christophe have both dedicated themselves to becoming the very best they can be and, like many of our current young people on the programme and other graduates who are now officiating at a high level, they’ve shown that with passion and drive, you can fulfil your ambitions.

“Both Matt and Christophe joined us in their formative years as referees and they’re now excellent role models to everyone on the scholarship programme. We’re immensely proud of what they’ve achieved.

“We and all our current students and scholars will take a huge amount of pleasure in watching two of our graduates demonstrate why they are now among the best in the world at what they do, at the World Cup.”

The appointments of match officials for the pool phase of the World Cup will be an announced in the weeks leading up to the start of the tournament.

The University’s sports scholarships help talented athletes, officials and aspiring coaches achieve their ambitions across a wide range of sports, including access to leading experts and current practitioners, and scholars are able to combine this bespoke support with any degree programme.

The University of Gloucestershire is the only university in the UK offering an officiating scholarship alongside studying for a degree. The other pathways focus on athletes and coaches.

Graduates of the programme also include Premiership rugby referee Anthony Woodthorpe, Championship rugby referee George Selwood who recently made his World 7s debut, Championship football assistant referee Daniel Leach and Jade Wardle, who has officiated in the Women’s Super League, and Lauren Kianchehr, an international Boccia referee and Boccia England Performance Coach.

Chris White added: “Every one of the students on the sports scholarship programmes at the University is aspiring to be the very best they can be in their area of focus, working together as part of an incredible team within a unique environment that will support them to help reach their goals.”

The University provides sports students with access to a wide range of programmes, expert lecturers, industry placements and graduate opportunities.

Credit for both images (provided by RFU): David Rogers/Getty Images