Paris World Cup July 4-9, 2016

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Brian Hamilton

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Two years ago I travelled to Madrid for the Madrid Sur Cup. Games were organised each evening, fixtures were scribbled on sheets of paper and games primarily featured teams from Madrid and the surrounding area. Transportation to the ground was completed by local referees driving appointed officials to the ground so they could complete their games. Meals were provided at the end of the day in the hotel once the last group of referees had returned to the hotel.

As a result of a referee assault, some exchanges probably lost in translation and a misplaced sense of trust, the tournament did not end well with the international group of referees (non-Spanish) being ejected from the competition. This resulted in their hotel accommodation being immediately cancelled leaving them to make alternative arrangements until their flights home one or two days later.

Fast forward to Paris which was a competition featuring at least 4 times as many clubs from across the world - Algeria, Morocco, USA, Egypt, France, India, Iraq, Mexico, Canada plus others all featured. The referee crews came from England, Scotland, France, Spain, Romania, Switzerland, Turkey, Holland, Germany, Russia, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Portugal and possibly others.

Teams did not always turn up on time, if at all. Transportation was via public transport, with each referee and observer provided with a week long travel pass for zones 1 and 2, which made moving around the city easy. Hotel accommodation was bed and breakfast with the majority of referees in student accommodation at various locations around the city. Food was provided at other sites across the city during the day and for evening meals.

Team withdrawals or late arrivals played havoc with the tournament scheduling and it was a credit to the organisers that they kept the competition going through to finals day on Saturday. This meant the assignments via facebook, google docs and excel needed some tweaking at short notice.

Some referee groups were professional, punctual and accepted changes with good grace (service before self); others were not. Some volunteered or agreed to accept extra games when asked; others did not, choosing instead to make demands about accommodation upgrades. Some had to be warned about their behaviour when off field and risked expulsion from the tournament, while others left the tournament without fulfilling their obligations.

The majority however provided the service they had been asked to provide which was making sure games were completed with player safety being paramount. They were rewarded with finals appointments either in groups or alongside friends they had met that week. These took place at two venues, both of which had a similar capacity to many Contributory League grounds in the North of England.

The referees weren't hermits either. Groups attended the fan zone at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and enjoyed the atmosphere as France beat Iceland (easily) and Portugal beat Wales. They visited the Louvre, the Musee D'Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, Disneyland and Jim Morrison's grave.

As a referee observer I was extremely pleased to be able to contribute in some small way to the tournament. The referees I observed (10 games in 4 days with reports taking up to an hour to complete) all performed to an acceptable (and far beyond) level. Many exceeded my expectations and their performances would not have looked out of place on a Supply or Contributory League game.

New friendships were forged, tears were shed but most of all, those that rose above the issues mentioned above, made a deep impression on me. England may be riding high in terms of international referees now but there are many strong challengers coming through.

Last point, if you ever have the opportunity to referee abroad, then take it. This was my second trip and certainly the more rewarding of the two. I hope to be back in Paris next year. No, the Euros won't be on and I may have to spend more down time sightseeing (hard life eh?), but I'd happily repeat this year's experience in a heartbeat.
The Referee Store


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Level 7 Referee
Sounds like you had a great time Brian. Having got back from IberCup Estoril last week, I would definitely echo the point about taking up any opportunity to referee abroad if you are offered it. The difference in culture from teams all round the world means that there is no end to what you can learn, and for a level 7 like myself to be able to referee with 4s on the line is something which you will never get to experience in the UK. (plus you actually get to ref in the sun for a change :)). However, I have only just gotten over the behaviour of some of the Portuguese and Spanish players, parents and coaches... :oops:

The opportunity to learn is not also just from the International teams, but the officials. Having been with guys from Norway, Northern Ireland, France, Austria and the USA, you learn a lot in terms of different styles which we don't see back home which I will develop into my game. The experience has given me the drive to (finally) begin the promotion scheme, as long I can sort it out properly at uni.
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