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ASK THE UMPIRE | How are ITOs selected for Birmingham 2022?

Twenty years since my first Commonwealth Games experience and with five consecutive games under my belt, I find myself approaching Birmingham 2022 as the Chief Technical Official, writes Bowls International columnist Allan Thornhill.

It is truly an honour to be leading a great team of International Technical Officials (ITOs) from around the world. There is a great team working for Birmingham 2022 who coordinate the technical official’s administration which must be a mammoth task.

In the past few months, I have been involved in discussions with the Birmingham 2022 management team and the technical delegate for lawn bowls. These have focused on equipment, including umpire kits, rink layouts, duties of the ITOs, conditions of play and familiarisation of the venue.

Arguably, the most important process from my point of view to date has been the selection of the team of ITOs.

Applications for selection were distributed to the 120 World Bowls ITOs in September last year. Inevitably, there have been concerns over the ongoing effect of COVID-19 and the various restrictions applied to travel by individual countries. It was of no great surprise that some individuals chose not to apply for those reasons.

Officials for the Commonwealth Games are nominated by World Bowls to the Commonwealth Games Federation, and it is ultimately their decision who is selected.

The CGF issued a very clear directive that we should aim to achieve gender parity in our selection criteria. This was an additional criteria to those contained in the World Bowls selection policy. The number of female officials appointed to the lawn bowls events in 2014 and 2018 has increased on each occasion and this year we will achieve a 50:50 gender split.

Any selection of individuals, be it players or officials at all levels of sport, inevitably leads to both joy and disappointment. The allocation for these games was just 36 so with 68 applications from around the world there was bound to be some disappointed officials.

There are several reserves on the list, and we have also considered the impact of COVID-19 by having a list of national officials on standby.

So, with the final list of 36 appointments made in February it was time to start processing accreditation and travel arrangements. There is a great team working for Birmingham 2022 who coordinate the technical official’s administration.

Next steps for me are to work alongside the competition and technical operations managers to ensure the officials requirements are linked to the sport requirements. This includes ensuring the provision of the right equipment for the greens, for the umpire kits, for scoring and for venue operations.

It’s a big jigsaw puzzle being put together by a big team.

Once all the athlete entries are received, it will be time to start conducting the draws for the 11 disciplines and then, for me, the allocation of the five roles that the ITOs will undertake in each session.

So, some busy times to come in the run up to the arrival of officials in Leamington Spa at the end of July.

Each month in Bowls International, Allan provides an insight into life as an International Technical Official, while also being on hand to answer your queries about the laws of the sport. If you have anything that you’d like Allan to assist with, please email ceris.hewlings@keypublishing.com.

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