It was in 1985 when the Year of Sport was launched in the Isle of Man that the decision was made to invite other islands to visit and compete in various sports. That year, 15 islands accepted the challenge and so the Inter-Island Games were born. They were such a success, that the decision was made to make them a biennial event and since then the games have been hosted by no less than 13 different islands from around the globe including Guernsey, Isle of Wight, Faroe Islands, Gotland, Rhodes, Isle of Wight, Bermuda and this summer Jersey hosted for the second time having previously staged the event back in 1997.
St Hellier’s Springfield Stadium was originally built specifically for the 1997 Island Games in Jersey, and now boasting an impressive 3G playing surface, Springfield was once again to be the main host football stadium for the 2015 games.
Having received the travel arrangements and hotel accommodation details, the array of match officials landed in Jersey ready for the Group stages of the tournament, which commenced on the Sunday following the previous evening’s Games Grand Opening Ceremony which was held at the purpose-built Games Village.
Under the Guidance of the FA’s George McCaffery, the group stage match official appointments were already known and Dorset’s Level 3 Ben Cobb had the honour of refereeing the tournament’s opening fixture at the Springfield Stadium between Jersey and Alderney in a match that saw the hosts run out comfortable 6-0 winners. Later that day I would make my own debut in the tournament as fourth official in a Group C encounter between Hitra and The Falkland Islands. Falklands won the match 2-1 after trailing 1-0 at Half Time. The following day saw the suncream become an essential part of the kitbag, as I refereed Menorca v Saaremaa in the scorching heat!
Every evening during the tournament, the match officials were required to submit match result cards from their respective matches to the organising office at the Springfield Stadium. Following this there would be a group debrief and reflection of the day’s matches, with the group sharing and learning from their experiences that day.
Similarly, each morning the referees would meet on the Springfield 3G pitch at 9:00am for a practical training session presented by one or two of the FA’s Senior Tutors and Referees. Free Kick and Corner Kick positioning, Safe Refereeing and the Denial of An Obvious Goalscoring Opportunity were some of the topics covered during the week, the latter being presented by Football League Referee and FA National Referee Manager Keith Stroud, who arrived on the Wednesday.
The group stages of the competition concluded on the Wednesday and the Semi-Finalists and placing matches were now known. In the Men’s Competition, the hosts had been eliminated after losing 2-1 to the Isle of Man in a match refereed superbly by Hampshire’s Jon Hollier in front of an estimated crowd of 2,500. Meanwhile the Jersey Women’s Team progressed into the Semi-Finals with a narrow 1-0 win over Hitra and there was Hampshire involvement yet again with Amy Robinson taking charge of the all-important fixture and rising to the occasion to deliver a top performance of her own.
With a busy day of Semi-Finals and Final Placing Matches scheduled for the Thursday, every single match official was called upon to cover the fixtures. Because of kick-off times, I was able to watch another of our Hampshire colleagues, Dan Berry, turn in a resilient refereeing performance in the Men’s Semi-Final Match between Guernsey and Menorca. With a place in the Men’s Final at stake, Dan safely brought one of the toughest matches of the week to a safe conclusion with Guernsey finally booking their place in the Men’s Final with a 2-1 victory after extra time.
Later in the day I was on Fourth Official duties once more, this time supporting Portsmouth’s Matt Russell who refereed the placing match between Western Isles and The Falkland Islands, maintaining the high standards that had been set and met by all of our colleagues throughout the week.
Following the match the final day appointments were released and they confirmed what I had obviously been hoping for since the tournament commenced – I would referee the Men’s Gold Medal Final Match between Guernsey and the Isle of Man, assisted by Mark Lucie, Jon Hollier and with Chris Powell as Fourth Official.
The appointments for the Women’s Gold Medal Final match brought further pride for Hampshire, as Paula Wyatt was selected to referee the final between hosts Jersey and Aland, assisted by James Durkin of Dorset and Hampshire’s Sean Jenkins and Alex Fisher.
The Women’s Final match came first with a 10:30am kick off at a packed Springfield Stadium. Myself and my own team, as well as many more of our colleagues watched from the stand as Paula and her team safely delivered the first final which brought Host Island Celebrations as Jersey edged the match 1-0.
Then came the 2:00pm kick off and the final football match of the week was underway with the Men’s Final. Guernsey stormed into a 2-0 Half Time lead in the heat and when midway through the second half they made it 3-0 the Gold Medal was headed back to Guernsey. All that remained was for myself and my team to guide the final to a safe conclusion so that in keeping with the week’s theme, people were left talking mainly about the football itself, with the only remarks about the Match Officials being positive praise for an overall job well done and with a minimal of fuss.
Throughout the week it was a pleasure to work with not just our own mainland colleagues, but with our counterparts from Jersey (and one from Guernsey) who were truly wonderful hosts. They repeatedly thanked us for offering additional coaching advice to further enhance their own games for the upcoming season.
Most importantly, the wonderful sport that we all love had once again been the catalyst for not only a tremendous tournament experience, but where new friendships were formed amongst total strangers from around the world who share that one common interest – the beautiful game.
- By Dean Treleaven