Rugby Referee Hand Signals PR Style

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week you’ll know that the Rugby World Cup has well and truly arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, and arrive with a bang it did, as Japan made us sit up and take notice with their win over the Springboks that will no doubt become the stuff of legend.

Of course it’s no surprise that #RWC2015 is a big deal in my house:

  • I’m Irish (they entered the competition ranked second place in the World Rugby Rankings for the first time since they were introduced in 2003)
  • I married a Kiwi (no he hasn’t taught me the Haka…yet)
  • My husband also plays professional rugby for a living.

So I often take time out from behind my Macbook to watch rugby games and ask incessant questions of my husband like “why is that illegal?”, “”was that a forward pass?” and “who’s idea was that lineout?!” interspersed with deeper, more philosophical musings such as “can you wear underwear when you play?” and “do they fart in the scrum?”

I agree, I don’t know how he puts up with me either. 

But I think deep down he appreciates that I take an interest in his job - a career that is mentally challenging, physically demanding and actually much more technical than it appears on screen. In the same way that I appreciate when he asks me about Facebook algorithms and doesn’t fall asleep while I explain. Rugby however, with its myriad of laws and sub-clauses, is taking me longer to get my head around than even the most convoluted of Google updates.

My better half was no doubt thankful for a rest then, when referee extraordinaire Mr Nigel Owens released a helpful article via the WalesOnline website explaining the meaning behind referee hand signals used during a game.

The article did make me laugh though, at the thought of other professions having such team signals during the working day. So just for fun, in between fixtures, here’s my run down of the referring hand signals in PR officiating!

Need a Hug


Most often seen during times of extreme pressure - in the run up to a tender deadline, the day before a client event or roughly 10 minutes before a pitch presentation. Requires the immediate help of team members who have alcohol or chocolate on their person.

This Big


When you’re boss asks what size the newspaper coverage for the client was this morning.

Head Check


Unlike the rugby referee signal, of the same name, this hand gesture is most often seen by a team member finishing a round of follow-up calls to news desks. Can indicate either migraine onset or the questioning of journalist sanity.

Catching a Grip of Yourself


Taken from the famous Northern Irish saying, this movement is also used under pressure, but when one wants to (or has to) remedy the situation alone, often due to lack of colleagues in the close vicinity.

Me Please


The rarest of all office signals, the raising of the left or right hand accompanied by eye contact is made by a team member offering their services to make tea, drive to the shop to buy 100 metres of bubble wrap, speak first in the pitch presentation or call the scariest journalist to ask if he received the press release.

Broken Back


An inter-student/executive level signal among peers to show back injuries caused by standing at a conference all day holding the wifi password poster, carrying boxes of props up a hill for a photo call or, more often, too many tea runs with the tray of office mugs.

Required Kick


This signal is reserved for management and can be used in both supportive and threatening tones when someone requires a kick in the proverbial. The invisible threat can also extend outside the office if someone has been horrible to a team member and made them cry.

This Small


As per “This Big”, this signal is used to describe the media coverage secured by rival agencies, management who took over your work streams or clients who left because PR is easy and their intern could do it by herself.

Get In Line


When the intern returns from the bakery run, the first team member to use this motion has signalled their intent to be at the front of the pastry queue.

Tea Break


Often used while on the telephone, conference call or from behind clients in a meeting that is coming to an end, specifically signals any team member who makes eye contact to press the button on the kettle.

PR Win


The clasped fist is most often used alone to signal the arrival of a media monitoring notification, a positive post-pitch email or a phone call from an interested journalist. The opposing hand raised in a fist pump is usually only seen when the news is so exhilarating that the team member forgets themselves in their excitement and unwittingly nominates themselves to make tea.

Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish my work. For there’s quality rugby to be watching…


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