2014/CW32 Euros Swansea MXO, M3510.08.2014
Referee Report - Euro Touch Championships 2014
I was up at absurd-o-clock to get ready and leave for my trip. The flight to Heathrow, customs and car rental all went very smoothly. The drive to Swansea was boringly long but pretty straightforward, just get on the M4 and head West for three hours. After dropping the car off at the rental office I caught a taxi to Fulton House at Swansea University. It was very sunny and quite warm, not what I expected as Swansea is among the wettest cities in the UK. Unable to check in I followed some touch players to the fields where the Junior European Championships were winding down. It was easy to find the Swissies and I said hello and wished them well. Irene and Knoxy (my co-refs from Switzerland) were in the ref tent and so I stayed with them until we could check into our digs elsewhere on campus.
The rooms were quite nice as they each came with an en-suite bathroom and free internet. Also, someone would come in to change the towels and make the bed daily. Not too shabby at all!
I dressed in my yellow kit (off-field kit is the yellow ref uniform, on-field would be white) and went to the referee orientation meeting with 71 (!) other refs. It was a bit long but not too bad. I asked one question about communicating play-on close to the score line which opened a bit of a can of worms. Turns out there are a few strong (and differing) opinions on this one. Oh well. Ref team then trooped down to watch the Junior finals. I caught the end of Swiss Kids' last game. Full of controversy (as usual, the Swiss whine too much - always have) but they did win it during a drop-off (one of two victories I was told) and ended their tournament on a high. The Junior Championship final (between Wales and England) was won by Wales, which pleased the hosts no end.
The Opening Ceremony for the senior European Championships proper was held late that afternoon at the main stadium immediately after the closing of the Junior Championships. The teams marched in their colors and there were many speeches. Afterwards the refs had their welcome dinner, which was pretty good. There were, again, many speeches.
Woke up an hour too early because I forgot to reset my alarm clock to Welsh time. Didn't realize it until I was standing alone in the cafeteria, in the dark, wondering where the hell everyone else was. Went back to bed for another 30 minutes of kip. Breakfast with my ref team was useful, got lots of advice and hints about how to handle the day. Didn't have to ref a game until 11.30am, so I acted as water-boy for Knoxy. When my turn came I was reffing the Spanish and Italian over 40s men. The first half was great and we held control of it very well. In the second half one of my team got deeply bamboozled about a potential try, and both teams pulled out all the stops trying to influence the outcome, I tried to intervene but wasn't able to help out quickly enough. The ref coaches really gave us some curry about that. Afterwards I went and acted as water-boy for Irene, and then again for Knoxy. My second game came at the end of the day, Switzerland and Scotland over 35s Men. Interesting bits included me sending off one Swiss player and force-subbing another. It was a fairly acrimonious match, but we kept them on a short leash and didn't lose control.
Had dinner with the Swiss Mixed Open team afterwards (they had watched) and was told that I had done good. Had a few words outside with Jo Galbraith, who has been one of the Swiss managers and just wanted to chat a bit, before going back to my room and showering before, exhausted, collapsing in bed.
Broke my step-count record by getting over 38000 for the day. Wooh!
Woke up at an appropriate hour and had breakfast with the rest of the refs. Down at the fields well before time to learn that our chiefs had lost the morning's allocation sheet. Found at the last minute, I didn't have to ref until 10.30 so I ran off to act as waterboy for one game. Reffed two Women's over 27 games (Ireland vs Wales, then England vs Wales), and then reffed a mens over 40s game (Spain vs Ireland). Spain had learned that the mother of the Irish team manager had died and organized a minute of silence before the game, which was very touching. The game went well and I think I'm reffing better than I ever have. After that, I was waterboy for another of Knoxy's games. Long day, very tired, broke my stepcount record again (over 39000). Feet are bloody sore from the pounding.
Did my team's laundry, which meant I missed the ref dinner. But I caught up with a mate (Jordi) who was also skipping it and found some food with him. I asked him how he thought he was going (he was hoping for an upgrade) and his attitude was quite gloomy. He felt too unfit.
Over breakfast some of the UK refs were grumbling about some dire weather that was supposed to hit at 9am. However, despite darkly billowing clouds, the whole day went by without more than one or two drops of rain. My first game wasn't until 11.30am, so I ran water for the first two slots. When my turn came it was a senior mixed game between France and Ireland and it went pretty well. The ref coaches seemed reasonably happy, I just have to work on my interchanges some more. I had one other game to ref in the early afternoon and I was a bit worried. It was a ranking match between Wales and England men's 35 and would probably be the hardest gig so far. Plus it was on field #1, which meant a lot of people would be watching. This wasn't going to be like out on the boondock fields. Overall it went ok. The bloody-thing ended in a draw though, so we had to go to drop off (it was a "result required" match). The English got to take the tap and managed a try right at the end of their six. Wales got their right of reply and I was sent on to ref this last set of six. It came close and the end was a bit chaotic, but Wales failed to get their try and it was over. Phew. I spent the rest of the afternoon running water for a couple of games (one for Irene, and one where I could watch the Swiss Men's 35 team just barely lose to Scotland).
I broke my step-count record yet again, cracking 40000, and of course I felt pretty wrecked. After dinner I went straight to bed. Outside, the rain had finally started and that long promised storm seemed to be building up.
Woken by storm a little after 3am. Slept fitfully until the alarm went off for breakfast. It was still raining. At breakfast things seemed to worsen. The rain intensified and there were occasional bursts of lightning. All agreed we were in for a grim day. We had a referee meeting after breakfast, where upgrades and awards were handed out and interminable speeches were endured. Jordi did, despite his worries, get his upgrade to level 4. In the hour over which this all took place the weather seemed to clear. Much relieved we went down to the fields for our last day.
Most of us only got one game to ref. So it was going to be relatively easy for most of us. Some of the others had to ref the finals, which was stressful as hell for those involved. I ran water for Knoxy again in the first slot. My game, at 11:30 (Spain vs Belgium mens 40s) went alright for the most part and while we had some rain, it wasn't much. The Belgian team manager was caught out making severely disparaging comments about one of my co-refs and so we ejected her from the tournament. Spain won it. Found out later that the Belgian mens 40s team had their points record expunged (so it couldn't contribute to Belgium's overall score), I don't know if it had anything to do with us kicking their manager out.
After lunch I went looking to see if I could catch the Swiss Open match and arrived in the middle of the first half. Saw Irene reffing, which was odd as she wasn't slated for it, and nobody was running water. So after I said hello to the Swissies I headed around to take over the water duties. The Swiss were playing against the German team, the scores were very close and it was getting to be a highly charged match. There was a great deal of complaining from both sub-boxes about every decision. With a minute to go German scored to get one point ahead of the Swiss, but the Swiss seemed to rally and appeared to get their own last-gasp try just after the full-time buzzer sounded. However, a German player had called a touch which went unheard (because of the bellringing Swiss) until after the try had been awarded.
The German team was going ballistic, the refs (all level 2) were looking uncertain. The decision was suddenly reversed and Germany had won the game. When the try was awarded at first, the German manager had been heard to call one of the refs a cheat. So I went up and confronted him about it. I stood in front of him, blocking his view of events and growled my extreme displeasure and threatening to eject him from the tournament. First there was denial and then bargaining, the usual crap. This was one of the last and most minor games of the tournament (nothing much was at stake) and it seemed a bit pointless to have him tossed, so I accepted his promise to go and apologize in person to the referee in question. Which he did.
With the reversed decision the Swiss went a little nuts. Their try would have saved them from defeat and having it taken away from them like that left them feeling pretty hard done by. They bitched about it endlessly, making the claim that a try cannot be reversed. I had to step in and put an end to it. They could go complain to tournament control if they wanted, and they did. But it would be to no purpose. It was all over.
After this I went and watched all the finals matches for the open division teams from the end of field one. The perks of being a ref means that if you're not busy you get the finest seats in the house for these games. It was terrific stuff to see the best in Europe going head to head in the open divisions. England won the ladies open and mens open championship finals, while Scotland won the mixed open final.
Afterwards I was just too damn tired to do much than go to my room, shower and collapse again. Forgot about dinner. Ended up sleeping right through the night.
Woke early, calves feeling like blocks of wood, and went to breakfast with the other early-risers. Said my goodbyes, packed up and started the long trek back to Basel. It had been a highly enjoyable tournament!