Club talk

Contracts and the first woman referee to officiate a National One game…

season homer burns doh surprisesI’m embarrassed to say that in my excitement at the announcement of Coventry’s first signings for next season, Alex Grove and Jack Preece,  I didn’t read John Wilkinson’s article closely enough, neglecting to take in the length of contracts they had both been offered.

Grove has signed for two years and Preece just the one.

It was there all along!

D’oh.

I’m delighted that Alex Grove will be with us for two years given that promotion is more likely to happen in the second of those two years than the first, even with additional challenge of the relegated side from the Championship thrown into the mix.

And whilst Jack Preece’s capture is a really significant one for me, I do hope there are some options available at the end of next season that will make an extension to his contract for a further 12 months a possibility.

It would be a shame if next year Cov ends up in the top two or three in the league and look as if it’s ready to make a more concerted push on promotion the following year, but Jack Preece won’t here to be part of it.

A year just seems an odd length of time at this stage in Cov’s rebuilding.

The addition of the two players is something of a coup for the club and I imagine both had plenty of other options available to them. It says a great deal about what’s happening here at the moment that we can attract players of their calibre and I’m sure that there will be others to follow.

But I guess my worry is that we’ll get ourselves into a really strong position from which to launch a  promotion challenge, only to lose some of our best players because they are on relatively short contracts.

I imagine it’s all rather more complicated than simply a contract ending after 12 months or 24 months, or however long it is originally agreed for, and that there will be opportunities  for extensions within the fine print for both parties.

For the likes of me, uneducated in such matters, when players like Jack Preece join Cov, the longer they’re here for the better!

That said, one year of Jack Preece is far more preferable than none.

I hope the above makes a modicum of sense…it does in my head, if nowhere else

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Back in November 15 2015, I included in a post a bit about Claire Hodnett, one of the very few female referees officiating in national league rugby. Hers is a fascinating story and she was the first female referee that I became aware of…and I think I’m correct in saying that she has officiated as a referee’s assistant at the Butts since then.

It’s a man’s, man’s, man’s world…

A year later and things have moved on yet further…

sarahEnter Sara Cox.

This weekend Sarah will become the first woman referee to officiate a National One 1 league fixture when she referees the game between Loughborough Students and Plymouth Albion.

This season has already seen the first woman to act as an assistant referee in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, that honour going to Claire Daniels who was the fourth official for the Exeter v Cardiff Blues game, but this is a first for our league.

Sara officiated at the Rio Olympics and was the first full-time female referee to be contracted to the Rugby Football Union’s Professional Match Official team.

Tony Spreadbury, the RFU Head of Professional Game Match Officials, commented :

Sara also has Six Nations appointments, she is in the squad for the Women’s World Cup in Ireland later this year, as is Claire Hodnett. (She) has been part of the professional team for three years…She is also involved in National League One this weekend which is a massive achievement and well deserved for the work that she puts in during the week and for performing so well.

adding that Claire is also doing really well this year and the hope is that she will officiate as an Assistant Referee in the Premiership.

Apparently, a number of women officials will be involved in Six Nations duties over the coming weeks, although no mention is made as to in what capacity this will be.

Rugby refereeing at the moment seems to be embracing a culture of openness and integrity both to itself and society in general. In recent years, stereotypes haven’t just been questioned, they’ve  also been dismantled, first with Nigel Owens’ brave decision to reveal his sexuality in 2007 and later the introduction of women referees and officials into club rugby at national level. For too long, rugby remained one of the last bastions of the testosterone-fuelled male, but slowly it is changing, As the RFU committees reflects less and less Will Carling’s image of the ’57 old farts’, so the game has come to encompass a far wider public.

And so it should.

Whilst there will be a certain novelty value attached to a woman refereeing a National One game, given the uniqueness of the event, I rather suspect the quality of the refereeing  will be at the very least on a par with what we are currently used to and, more than likely, at a level above the norm.

For a woman to survive in such a male-dominated society, let alone succeed, she is going to have to at least as good and probably a good deal better than a male referee.

Such is the prejudice still prevalent, not so much on the pitch, but certainly in the stands and on the terraces, a prejudice that is merely a reflection of the world in which we live, women are going to be scrutinised far more than their male counterparts. And to get where they are, women referees will have already undergone intense scrutiny, both in terms of their ability to control a game and their knowledge and application of the laws of rugby, as well as their fitness levels.

With some of the concerns expressed by those involved in the game over the current standard of refereeing outside of the top two tiers, I certainly welcome this initiative.

Just how successful the move to encourage women referees into National One is remains to be seen, but Sara’s debut in Tier Three on Saturday is something of a momentous occasion. The choice of Loughborough as the first club to host a woman referee seems an eminently sensible one, given that it will have the lowest average attendance of any team playing that day of just 258 spectators, so it will be perhaps a somewhat gentler introduction that it might otherwise have been. Who’s to say, though, in a couple of season’s time nearly 3000 supporters crammed into the BPA aren’t watching Coventry beat Moseley in a game officiated by either Sara Cox or Claire Hodnett? That day will come…

All eyes will certainly be on Sarah Cox at Loughborough on Saturday. I’m sure she feels an extra weight on her shoulders at the moment being the first woman referee at this level. Her success will open the gate for women, so there is the added pressure of expectation on her from the other women referees who hope to follow in her footsteps.

I’ll certainly be looking out for reports of the Loughborough game to see how it all went and, all being well, it won’t be too long before we welcome her at the BPA.

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Also, according to Tony Spreadbury, the RFU has also appointed four full-time Assistant Referees to the RFU’S Professional Game Match Officials programme, all men this time:

We think they have huge potential as referees but to speed up their development they are coming in as AR’s which is a different skill set but we’re putting in a training programme for them to develop.

In essence this is a fast-track programme designed to provide up-and-coming referees with the opportunity to  ‘work on several things to help them improve including analysis, strength and conditioning, psychology, as well as language training’ –  the language training including French lessons by all accounts!

It’s believed that by working with the ARs as a group and ensuring they have regular assessments as well as training, there will be even greater degree of consistency in the quality of those officiating at the highest levels.

Hopefully, some of that consistency will filter down to the lower tiers before too long…

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I’m intending to go to training later today…always an enjoyable hour or so watching the players go through their paces under the eagle eyes of the coaches and trying to work out what the make-up of the team might be before it is officially announced tomorrow morning.

I would imagine the news of the two signings earlier in the week will have impacted on the players, especially those who are still in talks with the club over contracts. There must be one or two players who still have a point or two to prove in the remaining weeks, although  I rather suspect that most should know whether they’ll be here next season by now.

Hull Ionians are in the second of the relegation places at the moment, but only a couple of points off safety, so they will be scrapping for every possible point over the remaining fixtures which makes Saturday’s game that little bit tougher for Cov. Given the far better performance away from home last weekend, the mood of the players should be fairly upbeat, especially with the prospect of playing in front of a large home crowd – it will be interesting to see if this is reflected at all in training this evening.

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For all the women referees everywhere…

Cher…Woman’s World

Said I’m stronger
Strong enough to rise above
This is a woman’s world
This is a woman’s world

‘Cause it don’t matter I’m movin’ on
Go-gonna lose myself in the beat of the drum
‘Cause honey this is a battle that you haven’t won

 

i

2 replies »

  1. Tim. Your blog is always a good read. I thank you for this. The blog is now more popular than the message board. It is so quite on their at the moment.

    Like

    • I just think it’s an alternative read, Mick. It’s not for everyone, and doesn’t cater for some of the in-house banter and one-liners that some find funny and many others don’t. The messageboard will always be the voice of the supporters, but it could do with a few new posters on it. Thank you for your kind comments though… (Ps…mum might make it to the ground on Saturday!

      Like

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