Durham Ref Soc Issue 03.
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Hello <<First Name>> & Welcome,

To the first 'E' copy of RefSoc magazine delivered directly into your inbox.

This is something a little new from the norm, if there are any issues please use the 'Contact the Staff' at the bottom on the newsletter as with anything new there are likely to be teething problems, we're learning and can only improve with feedback.

Anyway we shall leave you to enjoy Issue 3 in the Adam Morrison RefSoc era.

Adam & Mark

From The Editor

A Happy New Year to all from the REFSOC team. The year ahead looks exciting with the main event being the Rugby World Cup in this country in October. The region is hosting games at St James Park and Elland Road (for Yorkshire folk amongst us!) along with the All Blacks using the Mowden Arena as their temporary base.

If the recent Autumn internationals are anything to go by it looks as if it will be another All Blacks title at Twickenham.

We are now over half way through the league programme so it is now becoming clearer who the potential promotion candidates are and who are looking set for “the drop”. Durham City are leading the line for the Durham clubs in Durham and Northumberland One, closely followed by Hartlepool Rovers. Both have relatively young sides and it’s good to see players from previous colts teams taking the step up to First team level at both of those clubs and now forming the backbone of the First XV, along with other clubs in the county.


'He's Got the Whole World in His Hands'
This Month's 'What where they Thinking' Winner
March Appointments


Pictured here are Niki O Donnel and Veryan Boscawan at the recent Dubai Sevens. Nikki is still a member of Durham Refsoc, although she's working away at the moment. Veryan was a member while he was at Durham University, although he's now returned home to London.
Current Durham Society Referee John Meredith and former members Fergus Kirby and Andrew Jackson are all scaling the ladder as their recent appointments in the middle of LV and British and Irish cup fixtures prove. Pictured below are Fergus and Veryan again with Alan Hughes and Derek Blake at the National Panel Conference.


The grading committee met at the beginning of January to review referee grading’s. The committee had over 100 reports to consider on 38 referees and had access to 26 videos. This could not be possible without the dedication of Brian Watt and his band of dedicated advisors. Refsoc offers congratulations to those that did gain promotion and good luck to those that are due to take games at the next level.

A full list of the January 2015 grades can be found by clicking button below: -
January Grading

Durham / Catalan Exchange 2014

3 refs (Phil Walton, Simon Williams and Frank Cruise) and a County President (Kevin Bannon) set off on a cold, grey miserable Friday morning from Newcastle to arrive in Barcelona on a cold grey day…that’s what Susanna said…it was positively tropical to us, a beautiful, T-shirt-wearing 17°! We were taken 50km north, up the coast, to Santa Susanna, aptly named as Susanna’s home town. We arrived at her mum’s little manor (to be our home for the next 4 days) and had a lovely lunch to settle our tummies from the early flight. We unpacked and decided who would sleep where and Kevin drew the short straw, to have to sleep in the same room as my earth-shattering snoring!

A trip back to the city for the evening was in store and we met up with Titho and Miriam (who had been on the October exchange to Durham) in Born, a part of the Latin Quarter district. We viewed the ancient market ruins and 2 very impressive churches before making our way to join up with the weekly Barcelona Refs meeting. A convivial and friendly affair, they discuss laws in a question-and-answer session, note important regs and then all have a meal together.   A toast was given to all of us and Kevin reciprocated a speech to rival Martin Luther King! Susanna is still translating the text to this day!

Saturday arrived and we had some refereeing to attend to, however, all our games were kicking off at about 5pm so we were off to do some more sightseeing first of all. We joined up with our hosts again (Titho, Miriam, Roger and Joan Aloy) and visited the Sagrada Familia. I went there about 7 years ago and it was a building site inside. What a transformation! We had a special guide provided for us and it was an amazing highlight of the trip. Further sightseeing up to MontJuic to see the ancient battlements on the hills surrounding the city. Frank took some time out to revisit his youthful pursuits!

Our games were next on the card. Frank went up the coast to Marbella, I went to Cornella (next door to the Espanyol stadium) and Simon off to Carboner de Terrassa. The rugby was good, if a little less abrasive. Each of us had a Barcelona ref as a guide/translator/mentor for the game and the dreaded paperwork was ably completed by them. In my game (Cornella v Torroella) they played the ‘Copa de Jamon’ (the Ham Cup!) and presented a large Iberian Ham as a prize. This was duly cut up and provided excellent fare for the players and supporters. The ref was asked if he wished to cut some slices and I didn’t need to get a second ask. What a privilege!

The evening was arranged as a family meal at Roger’s house, in uptown Barcelona, where a huge paella was being cooked in the garden oven. We had a fine meal with plenty of discussions on the merits of the Catala
n v Durham rugby. Kevin had been assessing some very good rugby in the afternoon, viewing some National referees. His status as an international assessor is growing! We had a long day and Susanna drove us back to our billet for us to hit the sack with some relief.

Sunday arrived with our games scheduled for the morning. Simon was off first with a 10.30am ko and Frank and I had later games at midday. We all made our way to La Foixarda, Simon’s venue, a stadium with its own climbing walls around it! Susanna is seen here translating the words, ‘very tall’ and ‘giant’ into Catalan for the players! He got the 3G pitch whilst Frank and I got the grass. We met Ignasi Planas, the Catalan Society chairman, and Kevin was royally looked after for the day. He was able to present the society with sets of coms which I am sure they will put to good use.

I was taken by Roger out to L’Hospitalet, one of the ‘rougher’ districts of Barcelona and Frank went to Cornella, where I had been the day before. In my game, one poor guy had a double fracture of his arm, and whilst we were keeping him stable the coach came across, lifted him up and ran with him out of the ground!  It occurred to us all then that the A&E of the local hospital was literally next door…hence the name of the ground!  Once again our games were challenging but not incorrectly graded for us. Whilst some players know only a little English, the rest are fairly comfortable with the English calls but I made a point of trying to use some Catalan terms during the game. I think they understood! On a positive note, of the 6 games reffed whilst we were out there, we only showed 3 Yellow cards (take note R&D) despite the omens we were warned about that a lot of games end up with reds and yellows!

After our games we were invited to a local restaurant in downtown
Barcelona to be hosted by Ignasi Planas. Sunday lunch has never tasted so good! However, we were also aware that one of the refs had invited us for supper to the local café he owns, back in L’Hospitalet. We needed to walk off some of this ‘hospitality’!  A trip to the beach front and a long promenade by the super-expensive yachts provided space in our tums for what we had to come later. Kevin, however, was feeling the pace and had to be left by Miriam, in the car park, asleep! 

Our final port of call was Isaac’s café. He couldn’t have been more inviting! Plates of tapas appeared, as if on a never-ending conveyor belt. Susanna had left us to see to her children that evening and it was left to Roger to do the taxi-driver role.  By now even he was feeling the pace a bit, as he nodded off between the squid rings and the patatas bravas! He got us safely home to Santa Susanna by about 1.30am and then had his own drive back and then work in the morning. Poor lad!

Our final day dawned, once again, with fine clear skies and a little chill in the air…16° is a devil to have to cope with in November! We were given a tour around the mansion in the grounds. Amazing architecture which preserves their Catalan heritage inside and out. We exchanged gifts to our wonderful hosts and made our sad way back to the airport.  Susanna and her mum are stars!

Our sporting and cultural links with the Barcelona/Catalan society is developing. We can learn a lot about their camaraderie and sociability in a game that doesn’t have a high profile in Spain, being a weaker partner to football, tennis, basketball and cycling. Durham has extended similar hospitality and has a lot to give them in expertise and advice. We hope that the next group of refs to visit this year (both ways) have as much enjoyment and adventure as we have had.

Fins que ens trobem de nou , bona sort a tots els àrbitres

Phil Walton

The Ruck:Kicking the Ball-a Dilemma

In recent months, attention has again been drawn to the ruck, probably one of the most difficult areas to referee. Following the first round matches of this season’s European Cup, the Toulon lock, Romain Taofifenua, was cited and subsequently suspended for what he did to Ulster’s Stuart Olding when competing for the ball at the breakdown. This prompted an article in The Irish Times by one of the games most distinguished rugby correspondents, Liam Tolland( a former Irish Wolfhound) who asked...” when (a ruck is) formed, what actions are the players allowed by the laws?”

We have all screamed week in-week out...” Ruck hands”. Yet, week in – week out we regularly watch professional players miraculously popping up from the middle of a ruck, with the ball and scampering off scot-free as the defensive pillars are left in their wake. However, when noting such, I simply remind myself of the views of my advisors...”Don’t embrace everything you see happening in televised matches.” My understanding is that the only person to legally place his hands on the ball is the acting scrumhalf from outside the ruck. When the ball is rooted in debris, we will generally afford the scrumhalf an opportunity to place his hands on the ball whilst extracting, without the opposition fringe defence coming forward. A gentleman’s agreement if you will which gets the ball into play and keeps the game moving with little or no risk.

However, Tolland questions why kicking the ball while forming part of the ruck is permitted at all stages. Admittedly, it forms part of the contest for the ball, which is core to our game Tolland’s view... the flying boot introduces an element of controlled savagery, which is hardly within the spirit of the game. He argues that often these flying boots are the last acts of a desperate forward who is only aware of the general whereabouts of the ball and is intent on preventing its passage to the opposition or at least making it as sloppy as possible, forcing a scrumhalf to knock on or worse.

That is the intention. However, for a moment, he asks us to forget the intention(it has no place in our deliberations anyway) and focus entirely on the recklessness of the action, often blind and often from a man towering over six feet and 100-plus kilos and crucially from a far less nimble athlete than a back tuned to kicking (rugby balls). There is a duty of care throughout our game to ensure safety is paramount, especially to the head and Tolland concludes that such”... is not a low-end or even a mid-range act; this is top-end stupidity and merits a long and well-advertised ban to ensure that the next second row (underage or otherwise) needs to know where the exact location of his feet are relevant to the many unprotected heads in the thousands of breakdowns occurring in world rugby every week.”

In Stuart Olding’s case, referee Wayne Barnes appeared to be perfectly placed to observe the ruck, more so than Taofifenua who was blind to the ball. Did he see the incident and choose to ignore the kick as innocent? If he missed it, which is reasonable with so much happening, why didn’t he refer to the TMO foul play protocols and investigate why Olding had to exit? At the end of the day, some may claim that justice was done through the citing process but, surely, the priority, first and foremost, should be to eliminate such risks. And this can be done by changing the law and by enforcing it through top-end sanctions.

Significantly, after South Africa’s recent defeat to Ireland, Victor Matfield, in complaining about Irish studs, added...”Also something we are not used to back in South Africa is players kicking the ball in the ruck, just trying to make it a mess. We’ll focus on that this week.”This surprised me on two fronts: firstly, Victor implying that his countrymen already exercise this duty of care voluntarily; and, secondly, that he and his team had learnt a lesson or two from the boys in green. However, retrospectively, after beating the Wallabies and reinforcing our position as the third best team in the world, the second point now comes as no surprise. And having been present at Landsdown Road for our supreme victory over the Aussies, I’ve also changed my mind about my recommendation above... long may kicking ball in the ruck be permissible!!

DRFU REFSOC’s Irish Correspondent

Referees' Dinner

It seems like a good while ago now but the referees dinner took place in late October at Westoe RFC. It was a fantastic occasion and brilliant to see our friends from the Potomac and Catalunya Society. It was thoroughly entertaining to witness county President and Durham Refsoc member Kevin Bannon communicating in Geordie Spanish!

Many thanks to David Aldridge for supplying the photo's from the night.

Congratulations also go to Tony Jenkins who received the Bill Doig trophy and Steve Evans for receiving the referees society most dedicated member award.

This Month's What Were They Thinking!!


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Editor - Adam Morrison -

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