DUCKWORTH STEALS THE SHOW - Wales ACO Conference

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Over 100 delegates were in attendance (+50% of WACO Membership) and many remarked on an excellent days work and entertainment! The Conference was held at the superb Museum of Welsh Cricket (part of the SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff) with Dr Andrew Hignell (Curator & Glamorgan Scorer/Statistician) acting as mine host.

The day turned out to be an action packed event which also incorporated the Wales ACO AGM. Conference organiser (Steve Davies, Regional Chairman) modelled the day's agenda on that of the hugely successful National Conference held at Lords the previous November, but with an added 'Welsh theme' running through the day.

The Conference centred around four guest speakers,
- Prof David Collins, who repeated his excellent Lords presentation on the Psychology Of Officiating.
- Jeff Evans, Professional Umpire and famous son of the small Carmarthenshire village of Drefach.
- Robert Croft, the former Glamorgan and England player and current Glamorgan and England Lions spin bowling coach.
- the ‘mystery guest’ was revealed to be none other than Dr Frank Duckworth

Also supporting the event were,
- Dr Andrew Hignell, Glamorgan Scorer, Archivist and Curator of Museum
- Nick Cousins, Head of ACO, 
- Tony Hemmings, Deputy Chairman of ECBACO - Sid Poole, London & South East Regional Chairman 
- Geoff Trett, National Scorers Appointments Officer
- Martin Gentle, ACO Membership Services Manager
- Peter Hybart CEO Cricket Wales
- Gavin Hawkey, Business Manager Cricket Wales
- Peter Williams, Wales ACO Regional Education Officer

Stadium Tours Ahead of the AGM and Conference Dr Andrew took some lucky early bird visitors on a tour of the Stadium which is hosting the 1st Ashes Test Match in July. AGM

The Chairman of Wales ACO reported to the meeting on the significant progress and development made within Wales ACO over the previous year. Regional and County Officers were now in post in many of the areas (equivalent to Counties in other Regions). A number of umpire Lev 1 courses had been run meaning an upturn in umpire numbers with a corresponding increase seen in ACO membership within Wales.

Conference

Steve opened the Conference with a few words of welcome before handing over to Tony Hemmings who gave a report on the creation of the MoU between The ECB and ECBACO. 

Nick Cousins delivered a 'State Of The Nation' presentation which was not only informative but kept to the agreed timescale - which is a first for Nick!

Professor David Collins then delivered his superb presentation on the Psychology of Officiating which was very well received by conference attendees.

Time was called at 12.45pm for Lunch on the first day, and we were all treated to an excellent buffet.

The afternoon session commenced with the attendees being asked to do some work. As Steve reminded the audience, "we get more than our fair share of rain in Wales so it seems appropriate to run a CPD session on wet weather rules". Usually the likes of Dr Andrew Hignell or Peter Williams would be asked to deliver a short presentation on D/L or similar, but this time Steve told those assembled that he was going to 'have a go at it'! This announcement was, as you can guess, received with all the enthusiasm and groans appropriate to Wales losing to England at the Millennium Stadium!

However interest within the ranks picked up immediately when he announced that he was going to engage the help of a friend, who "knows a little bit about numbers" as Dr Frank Duckworth was invited to join Steve at the podium!


Dr Frank Duckworth and Peter Williams - and the Ashes Trophy.

An audible gasp broke out as this wonderful octogenarian took centre stage and delivered a fantastic story of how Duckworth / Lewis came about. On completion of his fantastic presentation and a rapturous round of applause from a hugely appreciative audience, the meeting then split into its Scorer and Umpire breakout sessions.

Scorers RSO Kevin Probert, accompanied by Frank Duckworth, Andrew Hignell, Geoff Trett + existing ACO Scorer Members were joined by a number of South Wales Premier League Club Scorers (prospective new member campaign) in the Media Centre at the SWALEC Stadium for a session on scoring matters and DLS in operation.

Umpires REO Peter Williams, delivered an interactive and extremely thought provoking presentation to umpire members on the subject of Player Behaviour and Discipline. Peter's approach to the subject was deliberately controversial in order to provoke a reaction - which it did! It was really interesting to see emerging views that varied (hard line approach v the more pragmatic approach).  Jeff Evans took a full part in this debate counselling all on the common sense approach rather than purely sticking to the letter of the law - an interesting learning point for all!

The Interviews

Nick Cousins, doing his Michael Parkinson impression, then conducted a couple of interviews with Jeff Evans and Robert Croft.

Jeff Evans - never a shrinking violet is our Jeff! He enthralled the audience with his story of how he became a Professional Umpire and then gave us a hugely interesting glimpse into being one. What was refreshing to hear was the degree of 'common sense' applied by umpires to match situations, ensuring wherever possible that the game goes forward in a sensible manner.



Jeff Evans and Nick Cousins

Robert Croft - this favourite son of Wales from the small West Wales village of Hendy entertained the audience with his humorous and in fact riotously funny stories and anecdotes which Robert has compiled over the last few years based on some career highlights! His impersonations of the likes of Sir Vivian Richards, Waqar Younis and Duncan Fletcher have rightly earned Robert the accolade of being a highly accomplished After Dinner speaker. Robert also showed his caring and more sensitive side when talking about the game of cricket and the benefits of being involved in such a great game.


Robert Croft in Full Flow!

Special Presentations

Simon Cussons was recognised for his contribution to the Management Services Committee with Hon Life Membership of the ECBACO.
Dr Andrew Hignell was recognised for his membership of the ECBACO Board as well as providing the superb venue (the Museum Of Welsh Cricket) for the Conference  

Raffle - ICC Umpires Shirt from World Cup – was won by Richard Penney   Signed/autographed Wales Rugby Jersey 2015 squad – won by Billy Evans

Feedback from attendees
Just a couple of cars made the long trip from North Wales this time. However, next time we’re ALL coming!  Excellent event and it has really helped to build bridges and excellent relationships between umpiring and scoring colleagues across the whole of Wales.- Richard Penny North Wales ACO

I would like to congratulate you on a first class event. I really enjoyed the speakers especially Mr Duckworth and Robert Croft, who were informative and funny. I’ve been to a Welsh ACO meeting’s before at LLandrindod Wells, well, today’s event was like chalk and cheese.  At the end I just wanted to get into Welsh Cricket and am inspired to meet more of our southern colleagues, because were all one team.  Great effort, well done! - Dave Jones, North Wales ACO

Initially we didn’t know what to expect, but the day turned out to be a hugely enjoyable experience for all members attending – well worth the trek from West Wales!  - Allan Hansen Pembrokeshire ACO

Excellent meeting yesterday.  Good structure and balance of motivation and information.  The self-development element was a very good section to get people thinking outside their comfort zone and to help them understand the reasons why behave / make decision in a certain way.  I took a lot from that. Having Jeff & Crofty share experiences I thought was a good way to put the game and role of the umpires into context, I am sure people will take a lot from that, I know I did. The venue, organisation and food were all top class.  Jonathan Gibbs South West Wales ACO (newly qualified Lev 1 Umpire)

Yesterday was a testament to you and your superb organizational ability. What an enjoyable AGM, I thought the Wiltshire AGM's were good and difficult to surpass but you done that with ease and maintained your timetable. Its got my enthusiasm back and Jeff Evans has certainly brought home to me the fact that you have to love the game, which I do, and it does not matter what the level of cricket is. There was not one part of the meeting that was not interesting and enjoyable, even the coach trip was fun and full of interesting stories and not all of them cricket related. Thanks for both organising and chairing a fantastic day. John Wiltshire (new WACO member just moved from WEPL)

Many congratulations to all involved and especially yourself for yesterday.It was an outstanding event.  As you know being a cricket umpire can be isolating at times and to all get together on what was predominately a social occasion was fantastic.  I can't remember the last time I laughed so much whilst listening to Crofty reminiscing even if there was a bit of artistic licence! Let’s hope it becomes a permanent fixture in our list. – Robert Charlton, South East Wales ACO

A most enjoyable day! I thought all the guests were interesting and entertaining and some of the debate was quite thought provoking. It was  good to catch up with local colleagues but I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to meet colleagues from out of my area, as it were, and put names to faces etc. All in all, an excellent concept and one which I think should become a fixture in our calendar. Many thanks once again for your efforts.   – John Furnham SEWACO

I thought it was an excellent event, and well justified me getting up early and missing lunch at Newport Cricket Club! I enjoyed every part of the programme, which was varied and allowed quite a bit of welcome moving around (well, for the scorers, anyway)! The highlight for me was Frank Duckworth’s talk. Having read his (and Tony’s) book, I’ve always wanted to hear him speak, and it was an excellent half an hour or so. My thanks to everyone involved! - Philip Stallard Scorer & SEWACO

You asked for feedback at yesterday’s conference and I will use only one word to describe it. Brilliant! The quality of the speakers, the use of top Welsh people, Jeff Evans and Robert Croft, set the tone for an event that was, in my opinion, better than that at Lord’s last year. Crofty with his stories, told with realistic voice impersonation, was a riot. You and your wife deserve much praise for this, you for the organisation and she for permitting you to take the vast amount of time involved in being our Chairman. Thank God I asked you to become the Llanelli Branch Chairman when I did. I look forward to this conference becoming an annual event. Congratulations to you both. – Derek Rees CPO SWWACO

Others Frank Duckworth – my presentation usually takes one hour, so your challenge to cut it down to half of that time was a challenge! Still, I got the impression that all present understood my story and I was really pleased that I finished at the 29 minute point!
Martin Gentle - Probably one of the best ACO Conferences I have been part of! Steve Davies – When organising events like this it’s always a worry – will it snow, will all the speakers turn up, will all the delegates turn up, what have I forgotten! Well fortunately on this occasion it all went according to plan!   Prof Collins was excellent, Jeff was brilliant (and couldn’t wait to ‘put something back into the ACO) whilst Crofty was – Crofty! (I’ve known Robert since he was a young lad, in fact whilst a player at Swansea Cricket Club he taught my son how to hold a bat. I first heard Rob speak at his Benefit Dinner at St Helens some 20 years ago and even then you could tell he’d have a second career someday – today he was just fantastic. PS: his services were without charge – again another Welshman wanting to support Welsh cricket – Diolch Robert!  The highlight of the day however MUST be that wonderful fellow Dr Frank Duckworth- he stole the show with his infectious enthusiasm for cricket! As he told us, and even to this very day, every time his wife is watching cricket on the television and the cameras pan to the scoreboard Mrs Duckworth jumps out of her seat to point at the D/L score and shouts, “that’s you that is”! A lovely throw away one liner that encapsulates just what a lovely man we had the pleasure of listening to!    Our only problem with the day was the conundrum of "how to follow that" next time! Finally my heartfelt thanks to all who helped make the day a wonderful experience!  
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