University graduate selected as Six Nations referee
University of Gloucestershire graduate Christophe Ridley has been appointed as a Six Nations Championship match referee for the first time, providing a unique scholarship programme with another major breakthrough.
Christophe (pictured) has been selected by governing body World Rugby to take charge of the 2024 Six Nations fixture between six-time champions France and Italy at the Decathlon Arena in Lille on February 25.
With Matthew Carley also among this year’s Six Nations match officials, it means that for the first time, two graduates of the sports scholarship programme at the University on the officiating pathway will be among the referees for the annual international tournament.
Matthew, who was the first person to complete a refereeing scholarship at the University, has been appointed as referee for the fixture between defending champions Ireland and Scotland on 16 March, as well an assistant referee for Christophe’s match between France and Italy.
Matthew (Sport Science) and Christophe (Sports Coaching) completed their undergraduate degree while enrolled on the sports scholarship programme’s officiating pathway – the only one of its kind in the UK.
They have both 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.
Both were among the match officials for the 2023 Rugby World Cup – the first time two graduates of the scholarship scheme have been selected to officiate at the tournament – with Matthew appointed as assistant referee for the final between eventual winners South Africa and New Zealand.
Fantastic role models for students
Chris White, who was a referee at the 1999, 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups, heads up 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.
Chris White said: “We’re absolutely thrilled for Christophe that he has been appointed as one of the match referees for the Six Nations for the first time – it’s a huge testament to his immense talent and tremendous work ethic.
“He and Matthew are fantastic role models for our students and our other graduates who are officiating at a high level, and we’re delighted that they’ve again been recognised as being among the world’s best referees.
“Considering the immense pool of world refereeing talent, we’re proud that two of the 15 matches at the Six Nations will be refereed by graduates of our sports scholarship programme.”
The University’s sports scholarship programme 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 is the only university in the UK offering an officiating scholarship alongside studying for a degree. The other pathways focus on athletes and coaches.