The Mancunian man-mountain Menelik Watson has been the British centre of attention this International Series week, but there were other Brits taking part in the game on Sunday.
Game nine of the International Series saw a continuation of the tradition stretching back to preseason games at Wembley in the 1980s that British officials from BAFRA would form the chain crew for the game.
Russell Newton, a BAFRA official with 12 years’ experience, was the head of the chain crew at Wembley on Sunday, after being on the crew for the Jaguars 49ers game last year. He was honoured to be named head of the crew, but knows it brings extra responsibility:
“It is brilliant to be on the chain crew and I’m honoured to be the head of the crew for this game, but I realise that it brings extra responsibility. In the end the big thing for us is to make sure we don’t make some sort of glaring error.”
Richard Vernon, the Director of Operations at BAFRA, explains why chain crew officials feature in two International Series games:
“For BAFRA members, the system rotates so that four are working their first game and the other four are working their second game. Four other officials will join the crew for the next game and four will finish. This ensures there is some continuity between the crew.”
The BAFRA members who are in the chain crew will be selected based on a variety of measures, including their knowledge of the rule book, what they have done on the field, what coaches and their peers think of them and their overall knowledge of the game. Their commitment is also a factor, with those who are ever-present at BAFCA conventions, those with Britbowl experience and others who are willing to officiate at smaller five-on-five events.
Newton is clear that being part of the Wembley crew is what many officials should look to aim for: “Doing this is the pinnacle for an official. It certainly makes all of those cold and wet university games worth it!”
The British officials are also helped out by their American counterparts. Earlier on International Series Sunday, referee Bill Levy invited the chain crew to attend their pre-game meeting. Newton says: “Fundamentally our pre-games are the same as the NFL officials; it’s about getting in the right mind-set for the game. However, the technology they are able to use is on another level.”
Another positive from the International Series: British officials helping to operate the chains and their American counterparts helping to give them more experience and show them how they prepare for games.
The officials who were part of the chain crew were:
Down box - Stuart Young
Stake - Russell Newton
Stake - Albert Lambert
Clip - CK Nam
Alternate down box - Andrew Lovell
Alternate line to gain - Colin Edwards
Start of drive - Muz Gibson
Kicking balls - Lee Taylor
Kicking balls security - Pete Thom