Peter Watson has been instrumental in the success of USA Rugby referees and the New England Rugby Referees Society, and has shaped the game of rugby both in New England and nationally by coaching, assigning, and influencing areas within the referee and administrator space for decades. Peter attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he helped MIT Rugby win the New England Rugby Football Union Championship in 1974, the only college side to ever win the New England Men's Club Division title. He would also play for the Charles River Rugby Football Club from 1978 to 1987.
Peter’s biggest contributions to the sport came as a referee and referee administrator. He served USA Rugby and New England in numerous roles as a referee, referee evaluator, coach, educator and administrator.
"None of those roles is likely to win a popularity contest in our game, but, in my opinion, that has never been Peter’s ambition. Rather, it has always been to do whatever it takes to enable the game to flourish and grow through the development of consistent and effective refereeing at the local, regional and national levels," said Mike Luke, former Canadian National Team Captain and top-tier Regional Training Manager, World Rugby and Rugby Americas North from 2007–2018.
"Peter Watson refereed consistently from 1987 until 2005. The last six or more years of his officiating career were at the level of the National Panel, the highest domestic level attainable for an official. These included overseeing matches in the Rugby Super League, the highest level of men’s club rugby in the US at that time, as well as top tier collegiate matches. Peter spent lots of time training with and discussing rugby with other greats of his time including one of his longtime and closest friends, Don Morrison," said Amelia Luciano, New England Chair and National Referee.
Most notably, he served as the Laws Chair for the Referee and Laws Committee at USA Rugby for nearly 20 years. He pointed out to World Rugby discrepancies in law and requested clarifications that were later published worldwide to improve our game. He fielded numerous questions about the Laws and their application from around the country, providing detailed responses that laid out the reasons that underlie the Laws. He was the conduit for communicating Clarifications from World Rugby and Law changes, which were accompanied by his guidance on how they should be applied. Throughout his tenure, he worked to ensure the Laws were applied consistently across the country, and in line with national policies and international application. Because of these many years of service, Peter is truly one of the world’s experts in rugby law and one of few who can explain the reasoning behind law variations throughout recent history.
While still actively refereeing, he was involved with referee education from 1995, when the US first rolled out formal courses at various levels. He was one of the Trainers who led the transition to the IRB course structure in the early 2000s, and continued in this role until 2020. He served on the Referee & Laws Committee’s Training sub-committee from 2000 to 2018. When his active refereeing career ended, he moved to working with developing referees, becoming a national performance reviewer in 2006. As the model for developing referees changed, he transitioned to becoming a nationally recognized referee coach, working with competitions including college men D1A, WPL and MLR.
Peter’s work was recognized by the Referees & Laws Committee when he was selected for the Denis Shanagher Award in 2009.
"We are all ever so thankful that the MIT trained brain chose to dissect the game of rugby and shape a generation or three of match officials, players, and administrators. Peter Watson, now enjoying retirement from work, will not retire from his love of rugby. His passion and knowledge have shaped countless in our game and my micro-example of his influence on my life offers a glimpse into the foundational elements that Peter has cast throughout our community. I would not have had the rugby journey I had if it were not for Peter Watson, and I know many referees who would echo that same sentiment," said Olivia Rogers, Chair of the Referees and Laws Committee.