You don’t notice the good ones. I’m talking about referees.
A while back this summer, I travelled to one of our away meetings with a referee.
I know everybody thinks – knows, even – these officials just wander into a stadium about twenty minutes before the off, press a few buttons, make all the wrong decisions regarding home riders and beggar off again after Heat 15.
It simply ain’t so. My fellow-traveller that night had already spent several hours at home, loading meeting details into his lap-top.
A referee is informed – by SCB website – of the nominated line-ups for a match, and has to then confirm the named riders are eligible, that any missing men are correctly accounted for – medical certification, evidence of racing elsewhere, etc – and that all the averages tally up.
All that is done, checked and loaded in the ref’s own time. Then to the meeting – which in this case meant a 200-mile drive – and arrival about two hours ahead of tapes-up.
Into the stadium office to pick up official documentation, check to see if the previous meeting’s referee has left instructions for any aspect of stadium safety to be corrected and out for a full inspection of facilities.
With nothing better to do, and hoping he might buy me a drink afterwards, I accompanied my friend as he walked the track.
Little things I’d never thought about, and certainly wouldn’t see from the stands had to be checked.
He looked at the height of the inner kerb (which has to allow a bike to be freely rolled onto the infield) checked to see if there were any broken tie-wraps holding a wire fence on the straight or buckles left undone on the air-fence. In both cases there were, and track-staff were asked to sort the fences before tapes-up.
In the pits, we checked there were fire-extinguishers (and that their certification was current) and other wee things – was there a supply of drinking water? Three buckets of sand? Working toilets? Plus that all the mandatory H&S (bless ‘em) notices were in place.
During racing, I left my friend alone – Lord knows, in my announcing days I sat beside enough referees (the good, the bad and the positively indifferent) to know what happens up there – and rejoined him as he downloaded his result-sheet onto the track’s own memory-stick, handed in reports and certificates and attended to a number of other unseen, unknown little matters.
I can report, and not because he bought me that drink (he didn’t) that the meeting passed off smoothly, there were no dodgy starts nor dubious decisions. Which is just as it should be. Nobody noticed.
After all, we come to speedway to see riders riding.
No-one ever pays to watch a manager manage, a promoter promote, a presenter present or, worst of all, a referee referee?
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