Dromore provides ‘man in the middle’ for US festival of rugby

Dromore rugby referee Trevor Bradfield, pictured at a game between Dromore U15s against Randalstown, who took charge of the final of a major tournament in the US. Photo: drewmcwilliams.com
Dromore rugby referee Trevor Bradfield, pictured at a game between Dromore U15s against Randalstown, who took charge of the final of a major tournament in the US. Photo: drewmcwilliams.com

A rugby referee from Co Down stepped on to the sporting world stage when he recently took charge of games at one of the world’s largest rugby tournaments.

Trevor Bradfield, 41, was ‘the man in the middle’ for matches at the 2015 Can-Am tournament in the USA last month including the final.

The competition, now in its 42nd year, brings more than one hundred teams from around the world together to go head-to-head in the villages of Saranac Lake and Lake Placid in the state of New York – billing itself “the largest rugby tournament in the western hemisphere”.

Around 5,000 people converge on the two small towns for the event.

Mr Bradfield refereed a match in Northern Ireland last year, involving a team from America. The team then informed him about the tournament and in July the Dromore man went to the tournament as an exchange referee between the New York State Rugby Referee Society and the Ulster Referee Society.

Travelling to America and taking to the field was the “chance of a lifetime,” he said.

“Being able to referee teams from different countries, different styles of playing. They would have to get used to how I referee and I would have to get used to how they play.”

There were occasional difficulties in getting his message across to the players, with his accent causing most of the problems, but the behaviour of supporters was of greater concern.

“The spectators were awful. They felt it’s their right to approach the referee after the tournament with the law book in-hand seeking clarification.”

One game Mr Bradfield took charge of was watched by a US national team referee assessor.

The assessor recommended the talented referee to the organisers and he took control of the whistle for the tournament final.

Mr Bradfield, who only began refereeing six years ago at 35, said he was impressed by some of the players on show in the finals of the club section.

“They were very big, big athletes who ran hard and tackled hard. They’d just get up and dust themselves down and play on. In the upper echelons of the game they definitely had some very good players.”

Rugby is reputed to be one of the fastest growing sports in the States.

“It still fights very hard to get column inches in the papers,” he said. “But the US team is in the World Cup in the next couple of weeks and their 7s team is doing very well. It has been quoted that if USA put resources into rugby then they could be world beaters.”

Mr Bradfield was quick to endorse refereeing even though his age is a barrier to moving further up the ladder.

“It has kept me fitter than most 25-year-olds. If you have a love for the game, even after injury it allows you to still be part of the game.”