French referee Jerome Garces talks comedians, cake and a coffee shop debacle in our offbeat interview

Get to know French referee Jerome Garces

He’ll become the first Frenchman to referee a World Cup final when he takes charge of England v South Africa in Yokohama on Saturday 2 November, and this interview from last year should provide a little more insight into Jerome Garces…

Who do you think is the funniest referee? 

Does it have to be a rugby referee? I would say a French soccer referee, Robert Wurtz. You should watch some videos of him. It’s just his body language, moving his arms around – he was very funny. I think players liked him because he was so funny.

What’s your nickname?

With my old friends it’s ‘Magique’. When I was a player I scored a drop-goal in the last minute of an important game and we won. It was a magic drop-goal and they called me Magique. I was a full-back.

Do you joke with players?

I don’t practise to do that but situations sometimes lead to jokes. In Europe, I did a game in Glasgow and I didn’t put on my rugby boots because it’s an artificial pitch. Instead, I wore my tennis shoes. All the players were really interested in my shoes and were joking about them.


What’s the funniest thing you have seen on the pitch?

One day, in a game between two French clubs, there was a scuffle and all of the crowd, 5,000 people, were singing the name of one player involved. My assistant referee had raised his flag, so he gave me a report and gave me the same player’s number that the crowd were singing.

When I called the player over, he was saying, “It’s not me, it’s not me.”

I replied, “Yes, it’s you. My assistant saw you, 5,000 people saw you.”

He then said “Sorry ref” and put his hand up to apologise to the crowd. All the crowd then applauded him. It was very funny.

Do you have any phobias?

Snakes – they’re terrible.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why? 

After a game in Europe it is always the same: a very early start and then to the airport. I hate waking so early. If I could clap my hands and arrive straight at my house that would be perfect.

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with? 

I like the singer Adele, so it would be interesting to have a private concert from her.

French referee Jerome Garces

Hitting the right notes: Adele performs live in Melbourne (Getty Images)

What really annoys you?

Throwing out the rubbish when it’s raining and cold.

What about superstitions?

None really, but I always use the same whistle. For 15 years I’ve used it and it hasn’t broken. I have to make sure I don’t forget it.

What’s the silliest thing you’ve bought?

The last stupid thing I bought was a hat for New Year. It wasn’t nice, just funny.

Any embarrassing moments? 

Once, about four hours before a game, I was with my wife having a drink in a coffee shop. Then I went to the toilet and it stayed closed, I couldn’t open the door. I was locked in! I needed to call my wife to ask the owner to try to open the door. I was in there for about 30 minutes and was thinking I might have to call my manager to say I couldn’t make the game. When the door opened I thought if someone recognised me it would be embarrassing, so I left quickly!

Who would be your three dream dinner party guests?

The first one would be Zinedine Zidane, the 1998 captain of the France football team. I’m a big fan. The second one is a French comedian, Anne Roumanoff. She’s very funny. Then Thomas Pesquet, the French astronaut. It would be very interesting to chat with him about space.

French referee Jerome Garces

Golden moment: Zinedine Zidane lifts the Football World Cup in 1998 (Getty Images)

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Cake! I love all cakes and it’s difficult to say no. Every Sunday at home we have cake and my wife likes to make cakes.

Who’d play you in a film of your life?

My brother. He’s not an actor but if I can choose it would be him. I think he would do a really good version of me.

How’d you like to be remembered?

That’s really for other people to answer but I just want to be myself and natural.

What was your first job?

I worked at an aeronautic company for helicopters. I was still young when I decided to referee and the decision to be full-time was an easy one. I have two sons, aged 13 and 15, so the travelling is hard, but I really enjoy refereeing – it’s a huge part of my life.

What’s your travel essential?

My whistle!

This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Rugby World magazine.

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