If we can turn the dial’: Dickson on the impact of Whistleblowers


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Former Harlequins scrum-half turned referee, Karl Dickson, is poised to unveil a unique perspective on rugby with the release of World Rugby Studios’ Whistleblowers, a documentary shedding light on the challenges and triumphs of match officials.


Dickson, who has transitioned from player to referee, acknowledges the stark contrast in understanding the nuances of officiating. With Whistleblowers set for release on February 1, rugby enthusiasts will gain unprecedented access into the world of referees, offering insights never before revealed during Dickson’s playing days.

Reflecting on his journey, Dickson remarked, “As a player, as a No9, obviously you try and referee the game that you think you’re looking at. But you actually have no idea what the actual referees go through, what their lifestyles are like, what the behind-the-scenes look like, particularly at a professional level.”

Whistleblowers provides a candid portrayal of the rigors faced by elite referees, capturing the highs and lows experienced during events like the World Cup. Dickson, along with his colleagues, shares a deep-rooted passion for the game, a sentiment that resonates throughout the documentary.


“It was a massive eye-opener for me coming into the game,” Dickson expressed. “But I think as well from the film what you get is you see how much we enjoy the game. We love the game. We wouldn’t be part of it if we didn’t.”

While celebrating the love for rugby, Whistleblowers also confronts the darker side of the sport: the abuse directed at match officials. James Rothwell, Chief Marketing and Content Officer at World Rugby, acknowledged the unforeseen focus on social media abuse within the project, emphasizing the need for a paradigm shift in how referees are treated.

Dickson emphasized the need for experience in navigating the onslaught of criticism, acknowledging the inherent challenge of blocking out external noise. However, he remains optimistic that initiatives like Whistleblowers can foster a more positive environment for match officials.

“If we can turn the dial one per cent, two per cent, the way where people will actually say ‘this is a real problem in rugby,’ it might stop those one, two, three people sending something, and will lead to more positive comments,” Dickson concluded.

As Whistleblowers prepares to make its debut, rugby enthusiasts anticipate a transformative narrative that not only celebrates the dedication of match officials but also sparks a dialogue aimed at fostering respect and appreciation within the rugby community.


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