Stephen R Hilditch, an Honorary Life member of Grosvenor RFC, Belfast, was enrolled as the 128th President of the Irish Rugby Football Union at today’s annual Council meeting in the Aviva Stadium.
One of Ireland’s most eminent international referees, Stephen Hilditch is the first member of Grosvenor RFC to be elected to the highest office in Irish Rugby, after a distinguished contribution to the affairs of the Ulster Branch and IRFU over a period of almost 30 years.
Following early retirement forced by chronic back injury as a player with Larne RFC, Stephen turned to refereeing and in a celebrated career; he was selected for 18 Test matches and over 40 touch judge appointments.
He refereed at the 1987, 1991 and 1995 Rugby World Cup tournaments, with his highlights including the New Zealand v Scotland third/fourth place play off in 1991 and the semi-final between England and New Zealand in 1995.
Stephen also refereed a number of Five Nations Championship matches, including an infamous clash between France and England in Paris in 1992 where he sent two players off – both Frenchmen, prop Grégoire Lescubé and hooker Vincent Moscato.
President of the Ulster Society of Rugby Referees in 1999/00, the retired schoolteacher was a member of the IRB International Referee Selection Panel between 2004 and 2011 and was the IRFU’s representative on FIRA (now Rugby Europe) from 2005 to 2015. He was awarded an MBE for services to refereeing in 1994.
Appointed to the Ulster Branch in 1987, he was Chairman of the Schools Committee for a ‘0-year period and was also a member of the Finance Committee (2004-2015) and the Management Committee (2005-2015) and was elected President of the Ulster Branch in 2003/04.
Joining the IRFU Committee in 2004, he has since held a number of key positions. He was as a member of the IRFU’s Management Committee between 2009 and 2015, Chairman of the Rugby Standing Committee (formerly the Domestic Game Committee), Chairman of the Referees and Women’s sub-Committees and he also sat on the Finance, Schools, Strategic planning and Laws Advisory sub-Committees.
A member of the Sports Council of Northern Ireland and vice-Chairman for a four year period, Stephen’s distinguished career as a teacher included appointments as head of the Physics Department in Grosvenor Grammar School (1968-1983), vice Principal of Wallace High School (1983-1987) and headmaster of Belfast High School between 1987 and 2006.
Married to Anne, he has two sons, Peter and Andrew.