The Burgum family history society is a member of the Guild of one name studies and researches the names

John Burgum - Referee For All Seasons

This article appeared in the Guinness Book of Rugby Facts & Feats (Second Edition). It was written by Terry Godwin and published by Guinness Superlatives Ltd, in 1983. It is reproduced with the kind permission of Guinness World Records (Beatriz Fernandez - International Brand Manager).

When John Burgum, of the North Midlands Society, retired from refereeing in 1982, he had completed 29 years on the county panel and 36 years of service in all. No other referee has ever officiated for so long at that level and even now Burgum has not entirely divorced himself from the practice. He has become a touchjudge.

Which takes him back to where he started. Many are the quirks of fate that drive sane men to become rugby referees but in Burgum's case it was a simple process. "I was not big enough to play the game so I started running the line at school," he says. "From there it was a natural progression. I became secretary of the rugby club while I was at Exeter University and we had difficulty in finding referees. So I became one."

Burgum joined the Devon Society in 1946, joined North Midlands on his return to Birmingham and went on to outlast all his colleagues. He became one of the best referees in the country and even now there are good judges who are astonished that he never got on to the international panel. Burgum was on the select list twice and was well fancied to make the top panel in the year when England, with a decision that might have demoralised scores of ambitious officials, decided to put only two men on the panel instead of three.

The word was put about that Burgum was too strict, too inflexible and he accepts this as the reason why he did not make it to the very top. He is philosophical. "Like all selection policies, it is only a question of opinion. I had a style of refereeing and I stuck to it. I have no hard feelings. I would have liked to referee an international but it was not to be. I enjoyed my time. I always felt that you had to get a style of refereeing over. If you do that you get a reputaion and the players respond accordingly. The trouble frequently starts when a referee compromises."

Burgum's biggest game was the North Eastern Counties v Whineray's All Blacks. He has taken charge of an England trial and controlled 36 county games, including the Cornwall v Surrey semi-final that had to be replayed twice.

On the prevailing standards of refereeing he says: "There have been problems in the last few years because of the flood of retirements of senior referees. They got old together, and now there are a lot of young, inexperienced referees who are not as well known, who have not made their mark and are therefore not as well respected." Of those who are left he singles out Roger Quittention. "He is head and shoulders above the rest," he said.