Jan Curnow began refereeing in 1969 after playing representative rugby in the UK and in BC. He also played Rugby League professionally for six years before immigrating to BC in 1963 where he played for Cowichan, Oak Bay and the Crimson Tide.
After refereeing at club and sub-union levels, Jan was appointed to his first major game between BC and the New Zealand All Blacks in 1972. Further appointments saw him referee numerous high profile tour matches in BC and several tournaments across North America.
In the 1970s, Jan became the first Canadian to officiate international games. He took charge of games between Canada and; Wales, Tonga, Fiji, Italy, England and France, as well as the second Can-Am game involving Canada v USA in Calgary, 1977. He was the first Canadian to be appointed as a neutral referee in an international between the USA and France in June 1976, in Chicago.
In the 1980s, Jan accepted a position on the Refereeing & Laws Committee of the Canadian Rugby Union. In this capacity, he served as an assessor, selector, and then Chairman of the Referees Committee and Vice-President of the CRU. During his ten-years on the Referee's Committee, Jan revamped methods for the selection and training of referees, and also held clinics across Canada that were supported by the CRU and Provincial Societies. He standardised law interpretation, publishing those interpretations and rulings in conjunction with the IRB Laws and Rulings Committee. He developed a training program of certified levels (1-2-3) for referees to work in parallel with coaches, an innovative concept for the time.
Although officially retired from first class refereeing in 1982, Jan continued to referee locally at the Under-14, Under-12, and Mini-Rugby levels in Victoria, and continued to act as an assessor/mentor/coach on Vancouver Island.