University of Gloucestershire refs heading to Portugal for prestigious tournament

(l-r) Chris White, Ben Simpson and Martin Allerton, Polygon Marketing, International Media Consultants for the Portugal Rugby Youth Festival

The University of Gloucestershire has teamed up with the Portugal Rugby Youth Festival, providing two young scholars from its Refereeing Academy to officiate at Europe’s largest youth rugby tournament.

Over 80 international sides from across all five continents will compete in this prestigious event that takes place in Lisbon over the weekend of 12-14 April, and students Ben Simpson, 18, and Ben Wood, 20, will be in the thick of the action.

It is hoped that this association is just the start of a long and beneficial relationship between the University and Rugby Portugal as tournament organiser and former Portuguese international, Antonio da Cunha explains.

I have played twice at Kingsholm and know the passion for the game that exists in Gloucestershire. This is an exciting first step to forging ties with the University, both for this tournament and other future initiatives planned by Rugby Portugal. The 2019 Festival is the eleventh edition of our international tournament which we created as a way of developing and strengthening the game in Portugal and providing a first class venue for overseas teams to test themselves outside of their usual environment. It also helps develop team camaraderie and provides boys and girls from across the globe with a memorable life experience.

We have over 100 teams competing this year and our goal year on year is to strengthen the quality of the teams and the refereeing. That’s why we decided to approach Chris White, one of the most respected international referees in the history of the game. We know that the scholars under his tutelage will be of the highest calibre and, though the two Bens are still very young, we have every confidence that they will help us to raise the bar as we look to improve standards for the future of the Festival.”

Chris White, Referee Scholarship Coordinator for University of Gloucestershire says “We were aware of the growing reputation of this tournament and knew that it was professionally organised and with great emphasis upon the sport and the participants.

“We were delighted to learn that our scholarship scheme, which is the first of its kind in the UK, had been noticed by Rugby Portugal. Several of our alumni from the scholarship scheme have already demonstrated the skill sets and temperament required to achieve professional status and our current scholars are working extremely hard to continually improve and learn.

“This is an excellent opportunity for both Bens, to fly the flag for Gloucestershire and the University, gain experience overseas and meet young people from around the world in the true rugby spirit of camaraderie. Who wouldn’t want to spend a weekend in Lisbon?”

The University of Gloucestershire’s Refereeing Scholarship Scheme is designed for those striving to become elite performers and provides an environment for them to achieve success in their academic studies whilst reaching their goals in sport.

The 2019 Portugal Rugby Youth Festival will see over 100 teams, including 80+ from overseas, compete across a variety of age groups. London Welsh, Myerscough College, Wasps and Worcester are just some of the English entries along with academies and teams from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, France, Italy, South Africa and the USA .

“It’s a great honour to be representing my Uni and to know that the organisers are putting their faith in us to help drive up refereeing standards at the tournament,” enthuses Ben Simpson. “It will be my first time officiating abroad and I am really looking forward to it.

“It’s good experience to work alongside teams and referees from around the world, learn about different cultures and overcome language barriers. We are trained to look at the subtle things and the importance of safety, especially where there are mixed abilities on the field of play. I’m expecting it to be a very busy and very enjoyable three days!”