Ed Morrison, the Rugby Football Union's head of elite referee development, is to leave his post.
The announcement by the RFU comes just a day before the new Aviva Premiership season kicks off.
Morrison, who controlled the 1995 World Cup final between South Africa and New Zealand in Johannesburg, was appointed as referees' chief five years ago.
RFU professional rugby director Rob Andrew said: "We are immensely grateful for the role Ed has played, both as a successful and respected referee, and latterly in developing other senior match officials.
"He has played a leading part in bringing a professional approach to officiating and, for the past five years, has been responsible for all officiating matters from the Aviva Premiership upwards, working closely with colleagues on the national panel.
"Ed has been a fundamental part of the rugby community and I am sure, with his level of expertise, will continue to be very much part of it."
Morrison became the RFU's first full-time professional referee in 1998, and after retiring he took on a development role at Twickenham before joining the newly-formed elite referee unit as a development manager, and then head of elite referee development.
"Rugby has been such a huge part of my life, initially as a player and as a referee, and latterly working to ensure that officiating constantly improves so that the professional game continues to flourish," he said.
"Having broken new ground by becoming the RFU's first full-time professional referee, being part of the formation of the elite referee unit and then taking charge of its development, I feel that now is the right time to hand the reins to a successor to continue the good development work and systems I have helped to put in place."
Premiership Rugby acknowledged Morrison's impact on the game.
"Ed has made a huge contribution to the game of rugby union over the last 20 plus years and, in particular, the development of the professional match officials' programme," Premiership Rugby's rugby director Phil Winstanley said.
"The whole game owes him huge gratitude for his professionalism and commitment as both a referee and a referee manager.
"He has provided magnificent support for Aviva Premiership rugby clubs and has played a big part in the development of our competition.
"Ed has huge respect around the world for what he has achieved, and his departure from the RFU leaves a massive hole to fill."