After the recent announcement of the Guinness PRO14 expansion into South Africa with the arrival of the Toyota Cheetahs and Southern Kings, the Championship continues to drive up standards on and off the pitch.
The recruitment of Garner marks another step forward for the Championship after the introduction of neutral appointments for Assistant Referee 1s and Television Match Officials in the 2016/17 season.
Garner, 37, comes into the role after his career as an RFU referee that saw him take charge of 16 Internationals, 40 European Cup games and 120 Premiership fixtures.
Additionally, Garner has also toured on the World Rugby Sevens circuit and refereed the 2012 Junior World Championship Final in South Africa.
The appointment of Garner, who will continue on from the excellent work of Ed Morrison (former Independent Referee Appointments Commissioner), signals the intent to ensure that the Guinness PRO14 provides the highest standards of officiating across all areas of the game.
The specific role of the Elite Referee Manager will be to manage all Guinness PRO14 match official appointments. Garner will also oversee a structured and objective performance review process while liaising with all unions across the Guinness PRO14 to identify and promote future match official talent.
Appointments will always be merit-based and neutral, wherever possible, to ensure the best fit for each Championship fixture. With his wealth of experience Garner will continue to ensure that the pool of officials available within the Guinness PRO14 will be able to answer the needs of both neutrality and excellent capability with the ultimate aim of establishing a stable of full-time officials.
Guinness PRO14, Elite Referee Manager, Greg Garner said: “I’m excited to be joining the Championship at such a monumental point in its history. The Guinness PRO14 is renowned for its Positive Play, creative players and adventurous coaches, and I know that referees have a role to play in the ensuring that teams have the right environment to flourish.
“By getting referees, coaches and players working together we can continue to provide fast, attractive rugby for fans right across the tournament.
“I would like to thank my predecessor Ed Morrison, an icon of refereeing, who did an excellent job in raising the standards in the Championship and bringing through fresh talent such as Mike Adamson, Andrew Brace, Ben Whitehouse and Frank Murphy to name but a few.
“This is a world class club rugby tournament and as a result the Guinness PRO14 creates a demanding environment for match officials. I’ll strive to continue building on this platform set by Ed and the team at PRO14 Rugby by working closely with the clubs, unions and referee managers.
“We currently have some of the best referees in world rugby but our aim is to establish a High Performance talent pool across the participating unions to appoint neutral match officials to all games, bringing through consistent talent and continually raising standards.”
David Jordan, Tournament Director for PRO14 Rugby, said: “We are delighted to have appointed Greg as our Elite Referee Manager after he emerged from a group of very talented candidates.
“I have already spoken highly about the job that Ed Morrison performed for the Championship and in Greg we have found exactly the right person to follow on and ensure that the Guinness PRO14 becomes a hotbed for refereeing talent.
“As we know referees play a crucial role in our games and having been a full-time official since 2009 and having refereed across International, European and Premiership fixtures for so long Greg is well equipped to help maximise the performance of our panel of referees.
“I also know that he will build relationships with our clubs and coaches who already contribute to a fantastic style of play in our tournament where positivity is always rewarded.
“Our stated aim is to have full-time professional match officials as part of the Guinness PRO14 and Greg is fully committed to helping us realise that ambition. Our Championship is only concerned with setting the highest standards possible and with Greg now at the helm we look forward to seeing the best refereeing talent in charge of our fixtures.”
Greg Garner – Factfile
Date of Birth: 26/6/80 (age 37)
*Began refereeing at the age of 19 during a gap year in Australia
*Appointed as a full-time RFU referee in 2009
*Obtained a Masters in Sports Management and is studying for an MBA