Norfolk Rugby Union Referees' Society Roll of Honour
Mike is a founding member of the society and has taken on all committee roles in his 53 years as a member of NRURS. In 2020, Mike stepped down as president after five years and is replaced by Mark Brown. Mike's impact on rugby officiating stretches from Norfolk and Eastern Counties to World Cups. His passion for and knowledge of rugby is unrivalled and the society thanks Mike for his service.
The impact of Mike's drive and determination can be seen through the testimonials below...
I have known Mike for some fifteen years from my time as a Norfolk, then Eastern Counties Referee. Mike has always been scrupulously fair and objective in his dealings as a Referee Assessor (in those days) and with his duties as Appointments Secretary. He has frequently been my ‘go-to’ man for his deep knowledge of Rugby in Eastern Counties and has always tried to offer dispassionate advice when requested. I value his knowledge and respect the man greatly. He has mentored a large number of Referees, and his advice and knowledge has added greatly to the quality of our Referees (including one Wayne Barnes – whatever happened to him?). Mike’s service within Refereeing goes back even further when he was a Referee; his travels through from ‘on-field’ duties to ‘touchline’ and administrative roles demonstrates his continuous dedication and commitment to the Game, and he is held in the highest regard for this backroom work.
I doubt that anyone else from the Referee’s Federation is made so welcome at the Clubs that he visits, and this is a testament to the respect that Clubs hold Mike in. We often hear of ‘giving something back to the Game’, but there are (too) few people that give such a large amount of dedicated service, and Mike’s support for the Game does him immense credit, and I appreciate and recognise him for doing this. Mike is an Honorary Life Member of Eastern Counties Rugby Union, a well-deserved honour. I wish Mike all that’s good with his ‘Rugby Life’.
Roger Pierson (RFU Council Member)
I have had the pleasure of knowing Mike for many years since first meeting him when he came to Hertfordshire to referee Bishops Stortford v Tabard in the days before the leagues. Nowadays this fixture would not be played as the two clubs are poles apart in the league structure. Our paths crossed on many occasions when we were advising for the SE Group under the watchful eye of David Ford.
Mike always appeared and was very committed to his involvement in rugby football in most aspects of referee administration, being involved in appointments, exchanges and advising with Norfolk and Eastern Counties. This to his credit and lasting energy are still part of his life. It was right and proper that he became the third President of The Norfolk Society, having in the past held the same post with Eastern Counties and Norfolk RFU. I wish him well in his retirement from the role of president, but on going success in his role with Eastern Counties on the appointments and exchanges side.
Alan Gibbs (NRURS - Past President)
When I first joined the society he was extremely helpful and it was clear that he was well respected within the society. At that time he was still refereeing and was appointments secretary. I can clearly remember an occasion when I turned up for a game only to find it had been cancelled. I rang Mike to try and see if there was anything else going, only to be told by his wife that he was refereeing at Eccles. I decided to go to that game, as it was near and I ended up running touch for him. I learned a lot from that game, not only from watching Mike but talking to him after the game about various aspects of the game. I found Mike to be very knowledgeable and helpful to new referees and also very wise. At society meetings when he spoke we listened. He was a an excellent assessor and his views were fair and accurate.
Mike was the man who encouraged me to become a Touch Judge. I was refereeing at Norwich and Mike came up to me and said that while I was getting good reports, my age was against me and wouldn’t be able to get beyond B1. I’m not sure that could be said at this time. I thought about it and realised that what he said was true and I agreed. Mike made arrangements with Alan Juby to submit the forms. The rest is History.
My first game was Saracens versus Bristol in the Pilkington Cup and I enjoyed 14 Happy years on the panel. While on the committee Mike’s input was valued and wise. I do believe that Mike won the societies' golf competition on more than one occasion.
Mike’s service to rugby and the Norfolk Society has been exemplary and many of us owe him a great deal as he has helped and encouraged us.
Clive Piggot (NRURS - Past Chairman)
Mike and I go back far too many years both as referees and administrators. Mike has been involved in the setting up, and developing of the referee training and appointments throughout Eastern Region since the late 60’s which in the early days included Essex as well as Norfolk and Suffolk.
We all learnt as we went along, in those days as there was no form of training in place. Some of us concentrated on the on-field element of refereeing, which Mike was successful at reaching a good referee level as well as doing the admin.
All the early days of reffing at Cambridge University, Southend, Thurrock, Chelmsford and Colchester and of course all the Norfolk, Essex and Suffolk clubs were the norm and Mike was appointing and developing refs as well as blowing the whistle all to great effect. Mike, have a long and relaxing retirement and I am sure Margaret will keep you busy at home.
Graham Feest (Eastern Counties Federation)
When I arrived in Norfolk in 1992 I was introduced to the Referees Society and I was sent out with Mike Holgate. Mike would look at the new boys and the junior referees such as myself then I was passed on to Mike Stott.
Mike Stott watched me a few times and throughout his debriefing he was positive and constructive at every opportunity, whilst giving me excellent tips on my performance.
If it hadn’t been for Mike Stott I would never have got to the standard I got to refereeing or I believe, onto the elite refereeing group as a touch judge.
Mike has been a driving force of Norfolk Referees Society for many years and has assisted hundreds of referees to be better; I would like to pass my personal thanks on to Mike and I hope he enjoys his golf and his retirement as President of the Society.
Andy Watson (Premiership Assistant Referee)
I first met Mike when he assessed me as a young London Society referee out on exchange in the early 1980s. He will have assessed me on a number of occasions in various clubs during my refereeing career -he was always fair, balanced and honest: nobody can ask for anything more than that.
Throughout the thirty - five or so years that I have been with London, Mike has been a ‘constant; as the ‘go to’ man in Eastern Counties as and when you wanted something done -somebody watched or just a bit of advice. He was always unfailingly polite whatever the circumstances, and always tried to help - that was the nature of the man: nothing was too much trouble.
More recently, when I was Team leader of the South East Group, we had a shortage of assessors able to watch in Eastern Counties, particularly the north of the Norfolk as and when North Walsham RFC was at level 5 (or at the top of Level 6). Who did I turn to -Mike of course! He had retired (allegedly) from watching regularly at that level, but he would always turn out for me if I asked him (nicely) -and incidentally, his reports were always promptly written and still as fair, balanced and honest as when he watched me so may years ago.
I am not sure that Mike is any good at standing down from anything -let alone being President of Norfolk (in which he has been a great success and an outstanding ambassador) – but he deserves a break and I hope he will enjoy his rest.
Rugby is full of ‘top men’, people on whom we rely to keep the game going - particularly in refereeing: an unpaid army of core volunteers who just give back and without whom officiating would wither on the vine. Mike is top of the tops!
Nick Cousins - London Society RFRU Representative
Mike is a legend simple as. We could fill a book with the words from people willing to offer their gratitude and admiration of the knowledge and commitment Mike has provided to the art of refereeing rugby union. Back in the late 90’s when Barnes had just turned up to UEA, Mike predicted that Wayne would officiate at the 2007 Rugby World Cup. And he was spot on. Just don’t mention Mike’s name to Graham Henry. At the 2015 Rugby World Cup, I can think of no less than FIVE officials who were under Mike’s direct influence at some point during their career. He has achieved all of this quietly, without any fanfare.
My own very first interaction with Mike was being sat in front of him at a discipline committee, back in the day when a four week ban was pretty much the minimum just for inconveniencing the referee. Thankfully, all subsequent encounters were always very positive and like so many others, he had a huge impact on my own progression.
There are some characters in the sport who turn up, make a noise, then disappear, but Mike has been rock steady for I believe well over 50 years, and has earned the respect of everyone in the sport. It is therefore a huge privilege to be invited to fill Mike’s shoes as President. If elected, this will be a tough task, but if I earn just a fraction of the respect that Mike has then I will consider it a job well done.
Mark Brown (New NRURS President)
Wayne Barnes (International Referee)