Thursday, 15 July 2010

Well said Brian Moore

On the football World Cup final...

"It is typical of football players to blame Howard Webb, the unfortunate English referee, for their own failings.

"Arjen Robben chose to do so despite missing two clear one-on-one chances. This is cowardly and dishonest, but what of Fifa's response.

"Sepp Blatter, usually keen to criticise anything that takes his fancy, particularly English, could only pathetically respond to the virulent and unjustified criticisms of Webb by saying that he had a "very hard task".

"Is that all he could say? Blatter speciously added: "Football is a school of life because it is based on discipline and respect. It's a combat game but in the spirit of fair play. You have to learn to win and you have to learn to lose, and should not forget the basis which is discipline and respect."

Rubbish. By refusing to condemn and sanction the relevant players and team officials for their on and off-field excesses which resembled spoilt brattish three year-olds, Blatter condones and encourages the same – beautiful, just beautiful.'

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Is the end is sight?

I was asked this week if my season had actually finished - well, the answer is, no... not quite anyway.
My last 15-a-side game of the regular season was on May 8, and after that there fell a local charity 7s tournament.

And then last weekend I was in the middle of the last in the series of a two-Test pre-Women's World Cup warm-up between hosts Scotland and South Africa, at Lasswade RFC near Edinburgh.

The matches provided an excellent opportunity for both the teams and the match officials to up their preparations ahead of the Women's World Cup in London, which starts on August 20.

Scotland were on the back of an under-performing Six Nations campaign, while the ever-improving South Africans have recently completed a two-Test whitewash of Kazakhstan in Dubai.

But while the Kazaks would have provided some stiff opposition, the true test of just how far the South Africans had progressed would be measured by two battles against the Scots.

In the first game, there was a fair amount of ring-rust on display and, dare I say it, not just by the teams. I took my time to adjust and then set back - a mistake any referee can ill afford to do.

But one thing that was obvious was just how much the visitors had worked on their strength and conditioning, which helped them ease to a 27-8 win over the hosts.

As I was in Edinburgh for the week, with the second game a week after that first, it gave me plenty of time to reflect on what was, by my standards, a very average display in the middle.

Of course, there were the distractions of Edinburgh (the castle, men in kilts, haggis and whisky), but the time to reflect meant that I had no excuse to not put in a much-improved display.

I always knew the second Test would be that much different from the first. For one, the Scots are a proud rugby nation and they were hurting from the first defeat.

And the tension and atmosphere was evident from the moment we as match officials stepped inside the changing rooms at Lasswade RFC.

In the event, despite an improved performance from Scotland, who led 14-7 at the break, the South Africans came out a changed side in the second have and let loose, sealing a comprehensive victory and series win with a 41-17 scoreline.

For me, it was a much better day at the office and I can build on this as we count down to the last eight weeks before World Cup kick-off.

For Scotland, they will be bitterly disappointed to have lost and underperformed as they are capable of so much better - such as their defeat of France in the Six Nations proved.

South Africa on the other had have sent out a very clear message, having won their last five games on the trot (including a win in Canada during last year's Nations Cup).

And so... the answer to the original question -has my season ended yet?

The 15-man game now most definitely has, but there's the small matter of two 7s tournaments and then pre-World Cup build-up in August, not to mention fitness testing on July 28.

Maybe I'll hold off the duty free for a while yet...

Sunday, 30 May 2010

English talent spotting!

Engalnd's Elite Referee Unit has continued its succession planning and appointments programme ahead of the 2010-11 season.
Head of Elite Referee Development Ed Morrison and Elite Rugby Director Rob Andrew have confirmed full-time contracts with JP Doyle and Greg Garner after they successfully completed their two-year trainee programme that has seen both referee in the Guinness Premiership, the IRB Sevens circuit, the Churchill Cup and Pacific Rim tournaments around the world.
Luke Pearce (22) is the latest trainee to be appointed and he will work with Ed and his team of referee development managers, Tony Spreadbury and Brian Campsall, with the aim of further developing his considerable potential and he will start his new role from 1 August 2010.
Two more referees Ian Tempest (22) and Lyr Apgeraint Roberts (33) join the Elite Referee Unit in a part time capacity.
Assistant referees Paul Burton, Nigel Carrick and Rhys Davies have gained promotion into the Elite Referee Unit (ERU) after a rigorous selection process.
Ed Morrison said "One of our objectives within the Elite Referee Unit is to establish a clear development pathway for our young talent and JP and Greg's progress shows that we are delivering tangible results in this area and we aim to continue that with Luke, Ian and Lyr."
Morrison is also delighted with the excellent work being carried out by Steve Leyshon, Steve Savage and Mike Melick within the National Panels. The ERU continue to work closely with Steve Leyshon and his team in identifying officials who they believe have the potential to operate at the very cutting edge of the sport.
Morrison said: "It's vital that we recruit more referees at the elite level of the game to handle not only games in the Guinness Premiership, the LV =Cup and the Heineken Cup but also with a view to giving our officials exposure at the international end of the sport courtesy of the IRB."
Further appointments include Trevor Fisher who will act as a TMO in the Guinness Premiership and Mike Hamlin who joins the ERU as a timekeeper.
The ERU has also expressed its sincere thanks to a number of officials who given exemplary service to the sport over a number of years.
Ed Morrison said "On behalf of everyone involved in officiating at the Elite end of the game and the RFU I'd like to thank Ashley Rowden who has decided to retire from senior refereeing to concentrate 100% on his new role as an assistant referee where his vast knowledge will be of enormous benefit to young officials coming through the ranks. Ashley joined the National Panel of Referees in season 1994-95 and is widely respected throughout the game.
"We'd also like to thank assistant referees Paul Emerson and Bob Mullis who stand down after years of outstanding service to the game. They both joined the ERU in 2001 and their level of personal commitment will always be appreciated."
Elite Rugby Director Rob Andrew said: "Ed and his team have delivered some outstanding results in the development of our young referee talent and JP and Greg are just two examples of them delivering in this important area of the departments' work.
"Like everyone else connected to the Elite Rugby Department I will continue to support Ed, Tony Spreadbury and Brian Campsall with their work with a view to further positive results being achieved in due course."

From the RFU website - read here.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Bitter sweet end to season

Last weekend I had the pleasure of refereeing the Devon County Cup final between host club Brixham and Barnstaple, a club who reside one division higher than the "Fishermen".

This was my second Devon Cup final, having been fortunate enough to oversee the 2008 match between Exmouth and Barnstaple, so I knew it would be a day to savour and one that would live long in the memory - Devon know how to stage a cup final.

It was a fantastic event and Brixham did the occasion proud - a thrilling game ensuing and a nail-biter for the crowd, with a drop goal the only score that eventually separated the sides as Barum ran out 28-25 winners.

However, despite the thrilling display of rugby and tremendous effort put in by the players, it was to be one of those matches that will be tinged with sadness.

Mike Browne (pictured above), Brixham's influential number 8, was seriously injured just after kick-off and subsequently replaced, but only two days later was the full shock of what happened actually able to sink in.

Browne was later diagnosed with a broken neck and underwent a 6.5-hour operation at Plymouth's Derrisford Hospital, where two bones in his neck were repaired with the aid of a titanium plate.

Report from thisisdevon

And things got worse for the Browne family when brother Kyle suffered a broken arm later in the match.

I love our sport - the passion, the emotion, the physicality - everything that it has to offer makes rugby union unique, and long may it stay that way.
But sometimes, when things like this happen, for a second you wonder if the risks players' take are ever worth it.

Mike is likely to be unable to work for a very long time and at present it is unknown if he'll play rugby again. As for brother Kyle, in comparison a broken arm is almost a "got off lightly" consequence, but it is not and when people's livelihoods are at stake it is a huge price to pay for the "love of the game".

I never want to have that phone call again - I never want to see a serious injury report form again... but I would be prepared to bet that if the Browne brothers make full and speedy recoveries, they will be doing everything they can to be pulling on the Brixham jersey again.

With the support of their club and their families, I am sure both, especially Mike, will be back at Astley Park before we know it.

I wish them both good luck in their recoveries.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

It's a 70-minute game!

Just when you dare think "ah, the end of the season is nigh" up crops a host of hastily re-arranged appointments and, before you know it, May is already looking busy on the officiating front.

This weekend a AR appointment commands my attentions on Saturday at Evesham, a junior festival in Somerset on Sunday, while the following weekend heralds a County Cup final and 7s tournament the week after.

But this week a call came in at late notice from TW1 to referee the AASE plate final between Filton Academy and St Paul's College at Henely on Wednesday, so after sweet-talking the boss for the day off, it was a 2-hour rush up the M4.

Oh my - but how these boys have grown! Given that Filton feed into Bristol and St Paul's into London Irish, I was expecting two teams of (and how to out this delicately) "well-conditioned" young men, but when the St Paul's captain towered above me at at least 6ft 4, I felt, well, tiny.

And it did seem bizarre in having to enforce under-19 laws in a match played by two excellent teams who would otherwise demolish plenty of senior sides, but how pleased did I feel when, with only 15 minutes played of the second half, the questions of "how much longer ref?" started coming.

How much longer? You lot are *cough splutter* almost half my age - you should have oodles of breath left in you!

Kids these days - bulging biceps and bags of gas, but where's their stamina, eh?

Monday, 22 March 2010

Extracting the urine...

There have been plenty of things happen on a rugby pitch that have surprised me, incidents where I've been forced into a double take.

Usually it involves foul play; a punch for example, or dangerous tackle, while sometimes a serious injury has unfortunately stopped me in my tracks.

However, something that happened the other weekend resulted in me awarding a penalty for an act "contrary to good sportsmanship" - my get out of jail free card if you like, as - in 9 years - I'd never come across it before, thankfully.

In the second half of the match, during a stoppage in play at a scrum, while the hosts were making a substitution, my glance in the direction of the touchline was averted to a visiting player who, quite brazenly, was answering the call of the nature on the pitch.

Not to the side of the pitch, not discreetly, or even obscured - in full view of everyone and with pretty much everything on display, if you catch my drift.

Being made of thick skin and having fairly broad shoulders, it wasn't with a deal of offence that I awarded a penalty against him (his captain dished out what I couldn't - a smack around the side of his head), but with utter astonishment that he would have so little disregard for his team-mates or even opposition who had to play on said pitch.

And that's not taking into account the fact that children could have been in the near vicinity - they weren't and it was only by chance I'm sure that his bladder cried out on the one area of the pitch where there were few spectators.

On reflection, I should have made the pi**-taker, or giver given what he was doing, a yellow card (an unfortunate colour I know) and made the idiot wash down the area in which he saw fit to relieve himself.

But not that taking a leak on a rugby pitch is anything new. Not a weekend goes by without someone somewhere getting caught short I know, but most of the time the effected party runs to the sideline and does the deed discreetly.

Even All Black Jerry Collins was once caught short before a Bledisoe Cup match, and was forced to pee in a bucket at Jade Stadium.

And of course there was Paula Radcliffe, who famously stopped during the 2005 London Marathon to relieve her bladder at the side of the road.

So, the incident goes down as a first in my book and, hopefully, the last.

Please, let's keep pinky where he belongs and if you really need to take a pee, go find a large bush and feel free not to shake my hand after the match thanks!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Prop talking sense?

It's one of the most over-analysed area of game from a refereeing perspective.
Couple it with the breakdown and it's the stuff of nightmare for many officials - "Objectives for the match Miss Daniels?" cries the match assessor before kick-off.
"The scrum and the tackle area," cries I in reply.

Most referees, if not all, have been there. Worrying about getting the scrum right from the word go.

You know the pack drill... figure out the dominant pack (if there is one), get the engagement right, manage the hit, get the feed straight, keep the back-row bound, the front row in, the backs 5m back... simple really.

Well, having had a long and refreshingly honest conversation yesterday with a current leading Guinness Premiership prop about the whole episode surrounding the fat boys up front, I'm in the process of penning the conversation into a piece for next week's Bath Chronicle.

Some of what was said really made me think and this particular line made me smile...

"You try doing a squat with 800kg, stand on one leg, cover one of your eyes and then get smacked in the other – half the time I don’t know what’s going on, how do you expect a referee to?

To read the full interview, check out next week's Bath Chronicle online at

Shameless plugging I know, but when the fat lads up front talk sense, maybe we should try and listen.