New Zealand Rugby (NZR) will roll out new shorts for officials in the next season of top-level domestic competitions over menstrual considerations.
The National Provincial Championship, Farah Palmer Cup (FPC) and Heartland Championship will see all male and female referees kitted out in black shorts, replacing the former white and yellow options.
NZR confirmed the $10,000 investment for about 250 pairs of new shorts was inspired by several other sporting organisations making the switch for player comfort earlier this year, including the Football Ferns, the Irish women’s rugby team, FPC teams and clubs at the amateur level.
When competing while on your period, it can become a game-day “distraction”, Football Ferns players told the Herald in March.
NZR high performance referee manager Chris Pollock told the Herald: “Earlier this year, there was a lot of media around women wearing white shorts and obviously that can be quite problematic depending on where they’re at in the cycle.
“I think it’s massive to make sure that people in our game feel comfortable and we want to remove as many barriers around as possible — we thought this was a pretty straightforward one to use.”
NZR currently has nine female referees in the 31-strong national high-performance squad.
Pollock said: “You know, [white is] probably not the best colour in reflection and we’ve just spent a bit of time thinking about what’s best for our whole group.
“And going to a different colour when we can is definitely beneficial.”
NZR women’s referee development manager Maggie Cogger-Orr told the Herald: “The women in the group have never loved having white shorts. [There] is probably no secret about that.
“[The change] removes one less thing to think about. I think referees have enough on our plate on game day without having to worry about something like that,” she said.
“It’s a great step really to just remove one more stressful thing for the women involved in the group, which is great.”
Cogger-Orr added that “it’s good” male referees will also play in the new shorts: “You don’t want to create more sort of division by having two sets of uniforms.”
Pollock said NZR made the change despite the “pretty reasonable expense” and a scheduled apparel sponsor change next year.
“We saw it as a pretty important matter but we could have easily waited.
“But we saw it as a very important thing that we wanted to address.
“We were more than happy to spend the money ... [Next year] we’ll look to redesign our whole referee uniform to make it probably a bit more user-friendly.”
Changes have also been made to the fit and shape of the women’s shorts after other comfort concerns.
“We’re trying to tick a couple of boxes,” Pollock said. “We had actually had some feedback from the girls around the colour of the shorts, and definitely around the [comfort] of the shorts that we were currently using.
“Ideally, all the females that are in our national squad will get proper cut shorts.”
Cogger-Orr praised the implementation of the initiative.
“It was great, to be honest, that it was largely driven by male allies in our group.
“It wasn’t necessarily something that we had to drive ourselves — they sort of took it upon themselves to make the change, which is even better.
“I think it’s great to make this change for the women in the group, but also still be united in terms of what uniform we’re [wearing] on in the field.”