Under the Sticks: Ben Whitehouse on refereeing, VAR and why rugby has got it right

Rich Dore
14 October 2019

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At just 29, Ben Whitehouse is one of the youngest referees in European rugby but also a busy man making big plans for his career.

The Rugby World Cup in 2023 is chief among them, with Whitehouse missing out this time around but fully focused on improving his skills and developing experience over the next few years.

The Welshman, a Swansea City FC fan, is the latest guest on the Under The Sticks podcast and discussed a range of topics from his father running the line at the infamous ‘Bloodgate’ game, his journey, and what he thinks of the current climate around sporting officialdom.

“You’ve got to look at football at the moment and in the Premier League in the last few years there’s been calls saying, ‘we’ve got to get VAR in, we’ve got to get it in, there’s too many mistakes.’

“As soon as it comes in people are saying ‘oh we don’t want it that harshly refereed, we don’t want the offside line refereed properly.’

“It’s about balance really and I think in rugby we do have that balance, I think we use the TMO well on most occasions but people are entitled to their opinion on social, journalists, podcasts, newspapers.

“I think that’s what makes sport so lovable…Those little moments in games bring people together.”

Under The Sticks – Delivering a broad mix of views and opinions, exclusive interviews with players & coaches, insights from key media figures and the chance to win match tickets each week – Under The Sticks wants to be your rugby podcast of choice.

Search ‘Under The Sticks Rugby’ on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Tunein, PlayerFM, acast, Pocketcast.

On the same podcast journalists Andy McGeady, Paul Williams and Adam Redmond chat through Japanese weather, mental health and all things Guinness PRO14.

Whitehouse, the man in the middle for Leinster’s win over Edinburgh on Friday night, also has much to say on the high-tackle framework and the ‘medium force’ incident from Benetton’s match against Munster in April, where he chose to brandish Tommaso Benvenuti a yellow, rather than red, card.

“I knew there would be talks of yellow or red, because we had that in the changing rooms ourselves afterwards, me and the other officials,” added Whitehouse.

“It wasn’t until I downloaded the game the next day, it gets put onto a system, and I watched it in the airport.

“And you know when you watch something in the cold light of day, I just looked and I thought ‘that’s a red!’.

“Forget about any framework or any chatter about what we’re trying to do, that’s a red. As soon as I saw it I thought ‘jeez I got this one wrong’.

“It’s all about learning from it though, I’ve done 50-odd games in the PRO14 and I’m at an age where I’m still learning, every referee is still learning.”


Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20 as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!

General sale tickets are available from http://bit.ly/PRO14Cardiff2020 and prices start at just £13 for concessions and £26 for adults (subject to booking fees), that’s a 15% early bird discount. Family ticket (2 adults / 2 children) prices begin at £64 and fans are encouraged to buy early to get the best value tickets.

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