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Behind the Whistle

Behind the Whistle

Shelley's Touch Referee Blog Entry:

So what a year 2012 has turned out to be! To say that it was a long season is to say the least - but at least we always had the highlight of the season right at the end ... the European Touch Championships taking place in Treviso, Italy.

England was fantastically represented by 10 accomplished referees:

  1. Cece Cheog
  2. Sarah Porcelli
  3. Uma Ramaswami
  4. Shelley Grace
  5. Bruce Lockie
  6. Shane Hills
  7. Tom Bedkowski
  8. Chris Whalen
  9. Stephen Dubreuil
  10. Robin Wylie; and
  11. David Bennett (late withdrawal due to injury)

This group of England Referees were joined by almost 50 other referees from Europe (including the odd referee from Australia and New Zealand - who just happened to be in town).  The 60 strong referees were split up into 6 smaller referee teams and were ready for what was to come over the next five days.

Day 1:

Little did we know, day 1 and the rain was to come!  Just a little shower as the rain started to come down sideways, kit up or stay kitted up as this will pass is what the lucky ones (those who weren't caught out in the rain) were told.  So for some of us, we were kitted up for about 3 hours while we waited to hear if our game were going ahead or not - some warm up that was!!  Common sense prevailed and there was no more play today.  Let's try again for tomorrow!

Pre Day 2:

So a sleepless night for many as the draw was re-structured, revised and restructured again, and our massive thanks and appreciation goes out to TOM BEDKOWSKI for saving the day!  His amazing Tournament Control skills and capabilities were put to the test and this time the whole of Touch Europe, every player, coach, referee and every other person who was present, came to know what us English already knew - this guy is good!  Tom, Tournament Control extrordinaire, the Tournament Control guru, made magic happen - and we all, players and referees a like want to publicly thank you for that!

This lead onto referee allocations, my guess is that they were done, changed and changed again - so it was another (there were many before the tournament had even begun!) sleepless night for the referee panel.

Day 2:

Rumour quickly spread … games aren't starting until noon today.  It was a mass of disbelief that such a thing could happen; it was the Euro's after all!  But once again a few wise people had some sense to think how the fields might hold up for the rest of the week if they weren't rested and the water allowed to drain.

Games for day 2 went off without a hitch and even better news - there were no injuries to report in the referee base camp.

Day 3: Hump Day

Day 3 traditionally known as Hump Day - we were at the midway point.  This was going to be a tough day on many counts.  Tough for those referees who were attending their first major tournament and it was also going to be a shock to the system for most as it is the first full day of competition with all timeslots being played!

But in true referee spirit, we just got on with the game.  There were games going on out on the fields and they needed us, so off we went!   The experienced amongst us, rallied the troops, gave first hand experience, explained that it does get better and tomorrow you'll feel as good as new and kept the momentum alive.

The first full day also signalled the first really long day - breakfast at 6:15am, bus was leaving the hotel at 6:50am and bus leaving the grounds in the evening at 7:15pm.  There were no complaints, as whom would you complain too?  We were all in it together and there were still a couple of days to go.

Day 4:

Hump day over and now we were straight into the business end now.  I'd say by this point, nearly every single referee had been watched by nearly every member of the 6 strong referee panel, been coached, been assessed and had their good games and not so good games (obviously when the panel were present - Murphy's law and all!) and above else, had learnt so much by this point.  We were all going to leave as better referees.

So it was another full day, with an early start and a late finish.  There were extra games to cover as the injuries had started to creep in, but spirits were high!  We had moved on from hump day - we were coming around the bend towards the home stretch.

Day 5:

There was a buzz of excitement and anticipation today, lots was to happen today.  Last games, play offs and finals and some big announcements to be made in the evening and then a party to attend! Party!!

Wrap up for the week:

A non drinking fine session was held every morning which always provided plenty of laughs and got people off to the games with a giggle and big smile and each individual secretly hoping there would be no big bloopers that anyone saw that would land them in amongst the fines the next day!

The ref base camp was a social place, a serious place, a place to stretch off and ice bath, to mentally prepare for your next game and debrief from your last, and a place to dump all your stuff to allow you to spend as much time out on the fields and amongst the action as possible.  The gym served its purpose and we loved it!

Us England referees, we weren't known or labelled as England referees, we were all known by our first names (or nicknames that had been bestowed upon us) and we belonged with fierce pride to our own referee teams and at the same time under the banner of being a Touch Europe Referee!  We came together as one as at this tournament your country didn't matter, you were neutral.

I'd like to congratulate all England Referees for the work undertaken at the Euro's and in the lead up to this tournament; you did yourselves and country proud.

Special recognition and Congratulations:

Receiving a Finals appointment (and a ranking in the top 21)
  • Bruce Lockie
  • Chris Whalen
  • Shelley Grace
Badge Upgrades and equations into the European referee system:
  • Chris Whalen - to Level 4
  • Shane Hills - to Level 4
  • Shelley Grace  - to Level 4
  • Sarah Porcelli - Equated to Level 3
  • Stephen Dubreuil - Equated to Level 3
Level 1 course presenter:
  • Uma Ramawsami
Level 2 course presenter:
  • Shelley Grace

This European referee team was strong and out in force at every opportunity!  I'm pleased to say that I was one of them!  England's contingent of referees was simply amazing and Touch Europe Referees were all the better for having each and every one of you there!  Well done everyone.

Photo's courtesy of Marc Rosenstiehl and Sylvain Charras - our resident referee photographers!  Thank you!!

Shelley GraceDrop Shelley an email ( if you'd like to be part of the refs team for 2013. Also, keep up to date with the refs monthly newletters too:


Bruce's Touch Referee Blog Entry:

‘You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me …. But you will.’

This was the start and the conclusion of the iconic Adidas poster that was launched before the Olympic Games; which a few of the England players put as their Facebook status before the Euros.

In a sport that has lots of its stats publicised, you only have to look at our NTS to know the top scorers & MVPs, so outside teams already knew the strong players in their categories.

However, there was one team that limited information was known about, a team of over 60 men and women, people that had been training for years, not months. They have worked hard individually, and pockets of them collectively, they had proved themselves in the local park touch to national representation, but the Euro's were the first time that many of them met each other, let alone stepped out on a touch field together. This team represented at every final, every 3rd and 4th place play off, even the seeding games that happened the day before the finals on the far pitches away from the crowds of 3 or 4 deep. In a game where stats are recorded; touchdowns scored / assists made, there was one stat that wasn’t recorded, how many times the whistle wasn’t blown. We wanted the games to flow, we acted to facilitate the game, not to impose ourselves on it, and we saw blowing a penalty as a failure on our behalf instead of an advantage being played to the players.


This team was the group of European referees.

As a member of the referees that was selected from the England Touch Association, we collectively had a solid campaign. We represented on the finals day in three of the seven finals, with three of the ten ETA referees gaining an upgrade to the next badge level, as a result of their performance over the tournament.

This hard work of the referees doesn’t come over night as all of the referees that attended the European Championship on behalf of the ETA have been refereeing for at least 3 years each. Although this process of referee development does take it’s time, it also creates the foundation that touch is played within England and I would like to thank the ETA for their support to all the referees at the European Championships this year.

Bruce Lockie


Cece’s Touch Referee blog entry:

Paper plates and ice baths

One of the first predictions, from a referee’s standpoint, when Italy was voted the nation of choice to host the 2012 European Touch Championships (2012 ETC) was the fear of a rapid rise of organised chaos - leading to tardiness, questionable efficiency, and debatable on-field temperance.

In some eyes, though, a bout of grumpy realism isn’t a bad thing.  So be it if it meant that certain referees had to assist the organisers with last minute contingency plans when it did rain.  After all, we Brits are used to extended spells of crummy weather.  But that’s not a bad thing – there was no Euro disunion apparent and the sun soon brought a show of form.

So what became of the 2012 Euros in Italy?

Despite the dim weather forecast, Italian Touch showed what it was all about when the sun did reappear – against a backdrop of ancient beauty, slight messiness served with great enthusiasm, immense national pride, and dare I say it, culinary delight in the form of tuna pasta, risotto and bread.  And for those who found the hole through the fence behind Pitch 2, a sneaky trip to the gelato shop.

Other memories include the intriguing opera singing during the opening ceremony; Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” – you have to admit, by the end of the tournament we were all bobbing along to the tune; the PA recording of “Playeeers and Refereeees…Please tek de feeld” of which I understand Touch NZ and Touch AUS are soon to experience; the infectious player and referee support for one another; praying hostage to the mosquitoes; the dinky medals won and lost – for the referees the immense delight in their upgrades; the swaddling of K-tape round most players come finals day; the desperation for a free portaloo during the after party; and, a general consensus that the hard work put in meant that a few scoops of gelato were well deserved.

It is quite frankly difficult to analyse an entire five days’ worth of Touch in Italy.  It did, on one hand, give pause for thought about what might have influence on the outcome of a successful European Touch Championship.  Strict direction is not, however, necessary to produce a modest but effective international tournament.  The 2014 ETC in Wales has a lot to live up to though in a different context.

Perhaps the question we should really be asking ourselves is: “Why do we love this sport called Touch?”  For me it’s passion for the game and everything associated with it.  That includes seeing if your paper plate floats whilst standing in a murky water-filled ice bath.

Cece Cheong

We are England Touch

We are the players. We are the supporters, willing us on. We are the medals, waiting to be won. We are the touchdowns, waiting to be scored. We are the men and women of all ages. We are the talent of today. We are the potential for tomorrow. We are one team. We are England Touch