There’s a certain dignity about rugby that’s difficult to explain. Sure, on the face of it, it’s characterised by ferocity, mud and blood, yet the game is conducted scrupulously, governed by a charter that, according to World Rugby, ensures “that rugby maintains its unique character both on and off the field.” So, while it might appear to the casual viewer that rugby is all brutal tackles and alarming collisions, there is a strict code of conduct and ethics that filters into the very heart of the sport, its players, their fans, and, of course, the officials who are there to ensure that it is upheld.
Canon EMEA colleague, Eric Gauzins is an exemplar and ambassador of this dignity. A lifelong Rugby Union fan, he became a match official for his local Paris area league at the age of 27 and has never looked back. From a disastrous first match as a referee (“The players realised that it was my first game and were very nice,” he laughs.), to his current ambition to be selected as a Television Match Official (TMO) for the Rugby World Cup France 2023, he has carried the ethos of the game with him into every aspect of his life.
Entering the world of rugby as a match official was a surprisingly simple but lifechanging decision for Eric. The sport has been a part of his world from a very early age, having been introduced to the game by his father when he was only five years old. The pair would regularly attend stadium matches and, very naturally, he began to play when he was six. “He took me to the big match of Five Nations, as it was at that time, so I was often attending France versus England or France versus Scotland. He always managed to have some tickets.” When he developed a back problem in his teens, however, his doctors deemed it necessary for Eric to pause playing for a year. And teenagers being teenagers, when the year was up, “I was interested in uh… other things than rugby,” he laughs. When he eventually picked up the game again in his twenties, he was disappointed to discover that he just didn’t gel with his new club. So, when his brother-in-law became a football referee, it planted the seed in Eric’s mind that this could be just what he was looking for.
Having passed his exams in the laws of the game and gained some solid experience, it wasn’t long before Eric was moving up the ranks of match officials. By 2012 he was in charge of a staggering 300 referees in the Paris area and instrumental in implementing new processes, training and standards for new and existing officials. Refereeing for national and international matches is quite normal for Eric and today travelling all year round is simply part of his life – both as a referee and with his job at Canon – because it is important to mention that for the duration of his career as a match official, he has also been working full-time. “I started as a developer for Canon France and became the IT director there in 2001. In 2003 Canon Europe asked me to join them for a European appointment. I have always travelled for Canon Europe, I never relocated,” he explains. Yes, Eric regularly travels Monday to Thursday in his role with Canon. And then travels at the weekend to be at matches. In the past twelve months alone, he has officiated at 41 games: 20 in France at national level, eight European Cup and thirteen internationals.