Volunteer Profile: Mark Orr

Volunteer Profile: Mark Orr

Mark Orr: Ulster Rugby Referee

Mark is Ireland’s longest serving referee with 33 years’ experience.

He began refereeing in his late twenties after he had to give up playing rugby at senior club level due to a recurring back problem, which meant he couldn’t play any sport involving contact.

Mark was and still is passionate about rugby, and wanted to remain involved in the sport he loved.  After a conversation with a family friend, the late Jim Page (who was also a legendary referee in Ulster) suggested that he take up refereeing. Mark decided to give refereeing a go and has never looked back since.


Mark has refereed at National level and was on the Irish National Panel from 1994 to 2004.

In 2004 Mark decided to take a step back from the higher level of refereeing and now mainly referees schools’ rugby matches and still thoroughly enjoys this role.

He is currently the Referees’ representative on the Ulster Branch Committee, a member of the IRFU Committee, as well as being Chair of the Governors at Banbridge Academy.

Refereeing suited his career path at that stage as refereeing only took up his Saturdays and meetings once a mont. He was also able to keep fit whilst enjoying the sport he loved.

Career Highlight

Refereeing the Schools’ Cup final – Campbell College against Ballymena Academy in 1999.

Skills needed to be a referee:

A sense of humour and a thick skin!


  • Keeping the game safe.
  • Disparity in size of players especially in Youth and Schools rugby
  • Retaining referees

Advice for new/potential volunteers

  • Fitness
  • Know the laws of rugby

Opportunities and positive impact

  • Opportunities to travel nationally and internationally
  • Meeting all kinds of people
  • Camaraderie among referees