Why Rugby World Cup referees aren't wearing watches

There’s something missing from every referee’s kit at the Rugby World Cup – here’s why they’re officiating without an important piece of equipment

  • Referees are involved in a standoff with a sponsor 
  • Comes after retired official reportedly sold off sponsor’s gift 
  • Sponsor has been labelled ‘petty’ by rugby fans
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

One of the leading jobs of a referee is to manage the time in a football match, yet officials at the Rugby World Cup aren’t wearing watches because of a row with timepiece sponsor Tudor.

Eagle-eyed rugby supporters have noticed that referees at the tournament in France have their whistle wrapped around one wrist but their watches are glaringly missing from the other.

Tudor is a long-term sponsor of the Rugby World Cup and posted on Facebook prior to the 2023 tournament to tell fans ‘we’re honoured to be the Official Timekeeper, capturing every heart-pounding moment and adrenaline-fueled play’.

The Tudor website continues: ‘Rugby is an uncompromising sport with bold values, a true reflection of the spirit that has driven this watchmaking brand since its inception.’

However, the referees are not wearing Tudor watches this tournament – and are not allowed to wear other timepieces due to the sponsorship arrangement.  

Rugby fans are saying Tudor should get a yellow card for not supplying officials with their watches at this World Cup, an essential part of a referee’s kit

Referee Mathieu Raynal has his trusty whistle and notebook but eagle-eyed fans have noticed he and his colleagues aren’t wearing timepieces at the Cup

A sideline official watches Fijian star Semi Radradra make a break against Wales, checking to make sure he doesn’t go into touch. Just don’t ask him to check the time

Instead, they have to rely on the television match official, the stadium clocks and the siren to adjudicate the game – including stoppage time.

New Zealand website Stuff.co.nz has reported the reason behind the lack of watches is a standoff between the Swiss company and officials.

The issue dates back to the 2019 Rugby World Cup, when officials were given Tudor watches.

It has been alleged one of those referees, who has since retired, angered the company by selling their timepiece after the tournament.

The piece in question was a Tudor Black Bay Chronograph Limited Edition that came with its own certificate of authenticity and was valued at over $25,000. 

However, rugby officials are understood to be bemused by the standoff, because they have never been directly told they cannot sell the watches in the past.

The referees were told they could wear Garmin watches instead of Tudor because they are not direct competitors.

But they collectively decided not to bow to the wishes of Tudor and just go without instead.

The $25,000 Tudor Black Bay Chronograph Limited Edition that was allegedly sold by a 2019 World Cup referee who has since retired

Referees have been reduced to relying on the big screen to keep track of time during matches, like the players and spectators

‘The sponsor’s angry, and it’s a bit petty… it’s just so poor,’ a well-placed source told the publication.

‘So for the first time ever in a World Cup, for the first time ever in tier-one test matches, the official timekeepers of a game are not wearing a watch.

‘It’s the biggest games in the world and the referees aren’t keeping time.’

The standoff has been slammed by rugby fans.

‘That’s ridiculous – Tudor can’t have their cake and eat it too. If you want them to wear your watch, provide one. Otherwise, they can and should wear whatever watch they want,’ one posted.

‘Tudor is paying lots and lots of money for sponsorship and then throws it all down the drain, bigtime, by acting petty. Doesn’t sound like a good business practice to me,’ added another.

‘Tudor will likely come to regret this decision – if they are going to decline to provide a watch for the referees, they should not then be able to tell the referee’s that they can’t wear another brand,’ posted another. 

Daily Mail Australia has contacted Tudor for comment.

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