Netherlands Women’s Premier League and M&DRURS.

  • April 10, 2019

Andy Irvine refereeing at the Netherlands National Rugby Stadium, Amsterdam. The match was a DeGiro Ereklasse Damen fixture between Amsterdam Athletic Club Ladies (blue and white) and Delft (green). It was the top women’s fixture of the day (april 7th . Both teams feature current Netherlands international players.

Manchester/Netherlands Exchange
This was the return leg of the exchange. Koen Maaijen and Louis van Gerwen had visited Manchester over the weekend of 2 nd /3 rd March and refereed two matches each, watched by Fred Eckersley; Bill Taylor; and me. Michael Assman, who was managing the exchange for Rugby Nederland, picked us up at the airport as arranged and took us to his home. There we met his partner Edith who had cooked Indonesian for us.  A warm welcome of beer; Indonesian style food; and fascinating conversation.


We were to stay with Michael and Edith for the weekend and Michael got us to where we were needed when we were needed. A Saturday morning visit to the tulip fields was planned but had to be abandoned when Michael realised that there was a tailback on the motorway of people with the same object in mind.  So, on to Leiden to the RC DIOK Leiden where I was to make my presentations and then watch a match.   

30 Referees of both genders and across a wide age range, and Match Observers, mostly Referee Coaches had assembled for the day. They were to hear two presentations from me: How we do Referee Development in Manchester; and a PowerPoint presentation based on the M&DRURS Preferred Option on Positioning. Then we were to watch a match and I was to conduct a group debrief on the Referee’s performance in the match.


The two morning sessions provoked some interesting discussion and plenty of questions, especially the presentation on Positioning, where our ideas and those of some of the audience were different. Several of them told me afterwards that they were trying open side positioning and several more said they would give it a try – on the basis that it could save them a lot of running in a match!


The afternoon match was RC DIOK Leiden v Hilversum – 3rd and 1st in the DeGiro Ereklasse (Premier) league; DIOK haven’t won the fixture for 7 years; it was a key match to determine who qualifies for play-offs.  No pressure then.  The Referee, Liam Wright, is of British heritage but is Dutch. His grandfather lived for many years in Ansdell and he has been here. Tyke Stevenson got him a match at Fylde 3 when he visited.


The style of play was mainly running and passing, played at quite an impressive pace. All the players get involved but the dominant style is running in the backs. Organised forward play and long phases are less evident. The standard of play is good and there were several players who could muster some impressive pace. RC DIOK won the match, much to the delight of the sizeable crowd.


Andy Irvine was to referee RC The Bassetts v RC Waterland in another DeGiro Ereklasse fixture in Sassenheim, with our host Michael Assman and Koen Maaijen as his ARs. Sadly for them, that meant they had to miss my presentation at the Leiden Club.


After the match the group re-assembled and I conducted a group debrief while the Referee and the ARs showered and changed. When they came in we did a quick recap of the outcome.   Then there was rugby conversation – virtually everyone speaks English fluently, several claimed to be able to understand me.

Then we were taken in to the centre of Leiden, an old university town, for dinner with Michael Assman, Andy’s Assessor from his match – Ruud van Dijk,  Simon Plomp who makes Referee Appointments, Liam Wright, Referee at Leiden, and Ruaridh Smith and Edwin van der Spek, his ARs, Dirk Heuff, who is responsible for Referee Coaching and Koen Maaijen who had acted as AR for Andy. After dinner we went to a bar in Leiden owned by the (losing) Hilversum captain, where his team were to be seen still wearing their Club tie well in to the evening. Reminiscent of the time when
socialising after the match was the norm rather than the exception it is today with us.


After breakfast on Sunday Michael and Edith took us in to central Amsterdam and then on an hour’s boat trip around the canals.  Amsterdam from the water is a sight you should see if you get the opportunity – no wonder much of it is a World Heritage Site. Then on to the National Rugby Stadium, opened in September 1997. The first match was the top women’s fixture of the day between Amsterdam Athletic Club Ladies and Delft Ladies, both teams featuring International players, including the
Amsterdam front row. The pitch is a 3G artificial grass pitch, well suited to the local style of rugby.


Andy refereed the match, which ended in a convincing win for the home team. The next match was between Amsterdam (men) and Ascrum, who both play at this venue, refereed by a young woman doctor recently promoted to this level.  It was a match similar in style to the match the day before but not as intense. After the match I had a discussion with the Referee, relating incidents in her match which were examples of some of the points made in the Positioning presentation which she had attended on the previous day.


Time for dinner with Michael and Edith and then off to the airport. Weekend exchanges tend to be non-stop experiences and this was no exception. We were treated to some good rugby; some excellent hospitality; and some enjoyable rugby fellowship. Long may it prosper. My thanks not only to Michael and Edith for their hospitality but also to Andy Irvine for his companionship, oh, yes, and the ride to and from the airport.

Thanks Andy. (The report’s in the post!)

ERB April 2019