Shock as top Super League ref steps down: last game was controversial Leeds Rhinos play-off

Leeds-based James Child is stepping down from his role as a full-time rugby league match official.
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Child, who works in Leeds and is a member of the Dewsbury and Batley Referees’ Society, has been in the middle for 333 Betfred Super League fixtures, culminating in Leeds Rhinos’ play-offs win at Catalans Dragons in September.

He joined the full-time list in 2010 and was in charge of the 2017 Grand Final, when Rhinos beat Castleford Tigers, as well as this year’s Challenge Cup showpiece between Wigan Warriors and Huddersfield Giants.

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The 39-year-old became one of a select group to have officiated at four World Cups with his involvement in this autumn’s competition.

James Child. Picture by Allan McKenzie/ Child. Picture by Allan McKenzie/
James Child. Picture by Allan McKenzie/

Child was also the RFL’s match officials manager from 2011-17, coaching touch judges at Championship and League One level.

He said: “I’ve been refereeing since I was 11 so this was a tough decision to make, but it’s the right time for a variety of reasons.

“I have always combined my role as a match official with my profession as a chartered surveyor and after 17 years with Leeds City Council I’m joining the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment company, CBRE, as an associate director in their development advisory team, based in the Leeds office, but working across the north of England.

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“I’m not sure at this stage whether I’ll be staying involved in rugby league in an active capacity, but I will remain a passionate supporter of the sport I have always loved, and will always bang the drum.”

James Child referees Rhinos' play-off at Warrington in 2013. Picture by Steve Riding.James Child referees Rhinos' play-off at Warrington in 2013. Picture by Steve Riding.
James Child referees Rhinos' play-off at Warrington in 2013. Picture by Steve Riding.

Child added: “I’ve had so many wonderful experiences and memories throughout my years in the sport.

“To be appointed for a major match is an honour and a responsibility and to be in the middle for the Challenge Cup final this summer was a special moment, as the competition has so much history and I’ve been watching it all my life.”

The RFL’s head of match officials Steve Ganson said: “James has been offered an exciting role outside the sport and we wish him well.

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“James has been a senior member of our group and I was delighted to appoint him to referee both the Challenge Cup final in 2022 and the Grand Final in 2017. He leaves with our thanks and best wishes.”