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8 months ago By Tom Slater

The very personal opinions of David Shuttleworth

Competent or qualified?
The debate on whether officials should be qualified or competent has run for ever. The simple answer is that in an ideal world they should be both. However, until now the pragmatic response has been that where a club is asked to provide referees they should be competent.

I am the obvious example of someone who is qualified but not competent. I do not really have the personality to have ever been a good official. I have always found myself watching the game rather than thinking about officiating. I also have a firm belief that a well officiated game should have the fewest number of penalties.

Graham Lester, sadly no longer with us, who was one of the best referees I have seen used to talk about “preventative refereeing” which really meant managing the game by talking to the players and letting them know when he thought they were close to a transgression.

For a number of years Graham was a leading voice in international refereeing. It is often joked that he grew the Rule Book from 10 pages to 100 pages. I am not sure that was true but much of what Graham wrote was about rule interpretation and game management rather than rules per se.

I have seen more senior lacrosse this year than I have seen for many years and in my opinion the standard of officiating has been as high as it has ever been. However some of the officials are perhaps not as competent as might be liked. Generally competence is a product of experience. The more you officiate the more competent you become and you clearly improve competencies by working alongside more experienced officials. A classic Catch 22.

Whenever it has been decided that more officials are required to manage a match the only practical answer has been to place the onus on clubs which means that every Saturday some clubs have to provide 6 or 7 officials along with coaches and team managers and bench officials. This has always been a big ask. The use of “competence” has always been a way to legitimately tap into the resource of senior players who would accept the need for their help at development levels.

On Saturday U12B and U14 games were officiated by senior TLC players (Toby Doughty and Tom Bracegirdle) and both were excellent in my view – extremely competent.

Additional arguments to support the use of competent senior players was always that it might give them a taste for officiating later in their careers and it might also give them a better understanding of the challenges which a referee faces in officiating.

As a last point I would support the problem raised by Connor Turner as to how do you show you are qualified? I qualified many years ago but could not provide proof of this and I doubt that English Lacrosse has a comprehensive list of qualified officials.

I understand that the instruction has been given that without two qualified officials a game cannot proceed. So a possible scenario could be that two teams turn up at Timperley complete with coaches, managers and supporters. Perhaps over 30 people, but because there are not two qualified officials the game cannot take place so everyone goes home with their day ruined. Under current rules (or recently changed rules which has taken place under who knows whose authority) a coach from a team or in the case of senior Lacrosse a player who would stand down to officiate on behalf of the team which could not provide a qualified person would referee. So games would be able to go ahead.

There would seem to be a number of possible routes that could be taken, especially given that in my 60 years involved in Lacrosse I have never known of a claim against the Governing Body insurance policies as a result of refereeing error.

• Go on as we are on the basis that the purpose of the exercise is to facilitate the playing of Lacrosse.
• Explore what the position is at clubs like TSC who I presume carry insurance to cover the actions of members.
• NWLA who have the responsibility for the North Leagues takes out its own liability policy (It would not be very expensive) then decisions could be made by NWLA in the interests of the member clubs and lacrosse.

I did give a bit of thought as to what other sports do to solve the officiating challenge.

I am told that every game of soccer is refereed by a qualified official though whether they are all competent is open to debate.

Cricket at the lower levels of club ie non 1st team and junior teams it would seem rely on the age old method of games being umpired by players from the batting side though generally junior players playing senior cricket tend to be limited to standing at square leg and limited to judging stumpings and run outs.

The overriding consideration should be an outcome where as many people as possible play Lacrosse.

Is Carillion a warning bell?
Whether accounts are dishonest or just spectacularly incompetent is a real question raised by the Carillion affair.

The construction industry is tailor made for bankruptcy and everyone knew that Carillion was heading for a crash. Everyone except, apparently, the company’s directors, two of the country’s leading accountants (Deloitte and KPMG) and the Government!

In mid 2017 the Accountants gave the company a clean bill of health. The Government continued to award them major contracts, and the Directors declared large dividends for shareholders and rewarded themselves with huge salaries and bonuses.

Subcontractors continued to work for them despite Carillion’s terrible reputation for paying promptly.

The warning signs were always there however, with problems on contracts causing large losses.

In early January the banks pulled the plug stating that debts of £900m were unsustainable.

A few weeks later it seems that the full extent of the liabilities was in the region of £5bn and the company had cash of less than £30m leaving a host of small businesses facing bankruptcy with no hope of being paid the money owed.

If the professionals were not criminally dishonest or incompetent then one begins to think that the accountants’skill levels are comparable to those possessed by the medical professionals in the 10th century.

The Carillion affair will run and run but we will have to see whether it will produce fundamental changes in how the country is run.

In a previous life I was in the construction industry so was not surprised by Carillion. I think building contractors are probably impossible to audit. My first job was with a major contractor who are no longer with us (typical of the industry). You always knew that it was audit time when the big trucks started rolling in dropping off large quantities of expensive steelwork. A few days later the auditors would come and include the steel in the value of materials on site. A few days later the trucks would reappear and take the steel back to wherever it came from.

A few years later, working for one of the smaller companies in the industry the annual audit consisted of a detailed forensic examination of the businesses accounts including not quite counting every nail and screw held in stock, certainly counting every box. At the end of the process the accountants would announce that “You have made a loss of £100K.” A request was then made for a valuation of work in progress. A finger was stuck in the air and a figure of for example, of £150K was produced which created a profit of £50k. There was a bit of too and froing whilst a final figure was arrived at which would satisfy the bank manager and minimise the tax liability.

Just as at Carillion it was all smoke and mirrors. The train would stay on the tracks as long as the flow of successful bids for contracts continued. The only fly in the ointment was if a contract or contracts went pear-shaped.

The Government has issued statements saying that Carillion was one rotten apple in a barrel of sound fruit. In my view nothing could be further from the truth. A brief look at the accounts of most major contractors, particularly those involved in government out sourcing contracts, show that although perhaps not as atrophic as Carillion they all bear a worryingly similarity.

What is also worrying is that the “Carillion” situation is not confined to the construction industry. You do not have to look far to see that there are companies in transport (Virgin Trains and Stage Coach), health care (Virgin Care) and other areas where outsourcing is becoming prevalent which have finances which bear a worrying similarity to Carillion. As I write Capita, an outsourcing giant which relies on Government contracts for the bulk of its work has issued a profit warning - probably the first of many, and their shares have dropped by 40% and they have suspended dividend payment.

As a bright spot it does not seem that we are seeing a rerun of 2008. Then it was the banks and funders who crashed. Now the funding seems to be buoyant, probably because most of it comes from overseas where economies are booming (UK is the worst performing economy in the G7) - from Europe, China, the Arab states and USA. The Carillion sites will be taken on by other contractors. One of the 3 Carillion sites in Manchester has already reopened only two weeks after the crash.

Additionally, the much trumpeted loss of jobs because of Carillion is not in my view a long term problem. The building industry is booming as the BBC yesterday pointed out. Building workers have always found their job security within the overall industry rather than with a particular employer. All they will do is move to another company.

Returning to the original issue. How on earth could Carillion’s auditors give it a clean bill of health only a few months before the company went bust? They are either incompetent or dishonest – probably both.

The Road to the Top is a tough one in Lacrosse just like any other sport.
In most sports it is tough to make it to the top. Particularly in the popular team sports the jump from teenage star to outstanding senior performer is a tough one to make.

As a Manchester Utd fan I have grown old with the legendary Busby Babes and more recently the Class of 92 who Alan Hansen famously dismissed with the comment “You can’t win anything with kids.”

Generally, however, Hansen was right. Someone once charted the progress of an England U15 team. These were obviously the pick of the crop and with potentially a future in the professional game. Of the whole squad only Alan Smith carved out a career in the Premiership and he was hardly one of the greats. The rest of the squad have disappeared without a trace.

More recently both Utd and City have invested heavily in their Youth programmes though the success of both has been limited. Both teams have relied heavily on the expensive purchase of mature stars at the peak of their powers. Recently Phil Foden at City was an outstanding player on England’s successful U17, as was Angel Gomes at Utd. 6 months into the season neither has really broken through. The City starting squad contains no-one who has come through the system. Utd do slightly better with Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard regular members of the 1st team squad.

Lacrosse is obviously a very small sport compared to soccer but many of the challenges are very similar.

Timperley have run the most successful junior programme for something like the last 30 years and won many Junior and U19 trophies. We have had a significant number of players who have played at U19 and senior England. In our current 1st team Mikey Armstrong, Jack Brook, Tim Blower, Tom Bracegirdle and Ollie White have all represented England in recent international competition and Josh Blower and Dan Walker have played for England U19 in the last World Championship.

Despite this success Timperley have yet to have their name on a major trophy and have only made one appearance in the Flags Final.

The other Sunday Timperley picked up another piece of silverware when they won the U19 Autumn Floodlit League with an impressive team performance. Most of the successful squad have played senior Lacrosse this season with five, Pat McGowan, Louis Humblet, Ed Loveland, Billy Kershaw and Dan Walker making 1st team appearances and not looking out of place and making solid contributions.

On the Saturday I watched a Timperley 1st team containing 3 of our U19s win a memorable victory over Cheadle. Watching senior Premiership Lacrosse and then top class U19 Lacrosse, there were marked difference between the two games.

Premiership lacrosse has less errors, better decision making, is better on ground balls and the clearing is much more controlled. All in all it is a big step up from U16 Lacrosse to U19 Lacrosse and an even bigger step from U19 Lacrosse to Premiership Lacrosse and then to international Lacrosse.

Many of our U19 players have the potential to take the step up. Whether they take it is completely up to them and whether they have the hunger to maximise their talent. They need to be fitter and tougher but most of all develop the mental toughness and ability to concentrate during a game.

In my view the young players have the fortune to have senior players on the 1st team who are object lessons on what is required to maximise your potential.

This season we are in a good position to make it a great season and if we are successful then it is important that our U19 players step up.

Updated 13:44 - 31 Jan 2018 by Tom Slater

Where next?

WEEKLY ROUNDUP JANUARY 31ST The news from Timperley Lacrosse this week
WEEKLY ROUNDUP JANUARY 24TH The news from Timperley Lacrosse this week.

Sat 27 Oct
Mens B Team Cheadle B
League 14:00
Sat 3 Nov
Boys U16A CH / Wilmslow
Friendly 10:00
Boys U14A Heaton Mersey
Friendly 10:00
Friendly 10:00
Mens 1st Team Rochdale
League 14:00
Mens A Team Brooklands A
League 14:00

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