Referee of the Year - Wayne Barnes
At a splendid dinner at The Prince Park Towers in Tokyo on Sunday, 3 November 2019, World Rugby name Wayne Barnes of England the 2019 Referee of the Year.
The occasion was the awards dinner, an annual event since 2001 when World Rugby (formerly the International Rugby Board) announces achievements in various categories including Player of the Year, Team of the Year and Coach of the Year. Since 2015, it has included a Referee of the Year. The first recipient was Nigel Owens.
Barnes was one of 12 referees chosen for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. The top matches he refereed were the quarterfinal between Japan and South Africa, a most emotional match as Japan reached the quarters for the very first time, and the third-place play-off between New Zealand and Wales. Because England were in the final, Barnes was not eligible to referee the final.
There were four nominees for the award of Referee of the Year – Barnes, Jérôme Garcès, who refereed the final, Nigel Owens who refereed the 2015 final, and Jaco Peyper.
The award was presented to Barnes by the chairman of World Rugby’s referees’ selection committee, Anthony Buchanan.
The master of ceremonies, Alex Payne, interviewed Barnes who praised the team work of his fellow match officials and said: “This award is fantastic for this team of referees.”
In 2018, there was talk that Barnes would retire from refereeing and Payne asked him if this was his swan song. Barnes replied that he would go home and discuss the matter with his wife, Polly who played rugby for Gloucester in her day, was a ballet dancer, sings in the Choir of London, is a client services director at Creature, a marketing company, and is mother to two small boys.
The 40-year-old Barnes is a criminal barrister at Fulcrum Chambers in the City of London, dealing mainly with fraud. He lives in Twickenham, within walking distance of the great stadium, the headquarters of England’s rugby.
This year’s World Cup was the fourth Barnes has refereed at. In 2007, he incurred the wrath of the whole of New Zealand when he was the referee in the quarterfinal which the All Blacks lost to France. He was 28 at the time.
Barnes from the West Country started refereeing at the age of 15, joining the Gloucester & District Referees’ Society. Reading law at the University of East Anglia, he became a member of the London Society, the biggest referees’ society in the world.
In 2001 he became the youngest member on England’s panel of elite referees. In 2003 he made his international debut on the Sevens circuit and refereed his first Test in 2006. In 2007 he refereed at his first World Cup. He refereed quarterfinals in 2007 and 2015 and a semifinal in 2015 when Australia beat Argentina.
He has refereed more finals of England’s Premiership than anybody else – eight in all, including the 2018 final.
Barnes, a popular man, certainly has a wealth of refereeing experience and enjoyed an excellent World Cup.
World Rugby’s Referee of the Year
2015: Nigel Owens (Wales)
2016: Alhambra Nievas (Spain) and Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
2017: Joy Neville (Ireland)
2018: Angus Gardner (Australia)
2019: Wayne Barnes (England)