Ashley Rowden began his refereeing career aged 13 and, now in his 46th year, has completed 22 years as a Premiership Rugby referee, is fifth on the all-time list, and currently volunteers at Rams where, aged seven, he started supporting his father as a touch judge.

He presented Reading U16 players with kit awarded for their efforts on the Berkshire Young Match Official programme which launched last October,  with 42 participants completing their RFU Kids First Referee qualification.

They have since gone out officiating in clubs and schools, thanks to support from the Berkshire Referee Society, who funded their training and provide a pathway for those wanting to join the Society.

“I think it is fantastic that these young people have the opportunity to develop refereeing skills and that they are putting them to use. No referee – no game!” said Ashley.

Said Nicola McCombe Community Rugby Coach for Berkshire,“The YMOs have had a positive impact on the game in Berkshire. At times they have been the difference between games being played or not.

They have increased the playing opportunities for youngsters throughout the county and I’m immensely proud of what they have achieved. They have huge potential and Berkshire Referees Society and RFU will support them along their officiating journey.”

No fewer than 822 young match officials have qualified across the country this season.