More from Portugal: Four go refereeing in Lisbon

  • April 29, 2019

Attendees: John Pemberton, Mike Ince, Mark Hiney, Chris Astley.


The Portugal Youth Festival is a rapidly expanding tournament held at the impressive Lisbon University Sports Complex. It caters for four age groups, U13, U15, U17 and U19 with each team playing 3 or 4 shortened games each day. Teams and indeed referees are invited from all over the world coming from as far as Zimbabwe and Australia. There was a significant attendance from Portugal itself and Spain as well as a spattering of teams from the UK including Myerscough College and Blackheath. In all, the tournament was attended by over 3,000 enthusiastic young players.

The Rugby

The tournament was due to start on the Saturday but what proved to be the first major challenge was actually getting to Lisbon. We left Manchester at 10am for a supposed 2 hour flight but due to a closed runway, we had to fly back to Porto and sit around for ages before getting going again. We finally arrived at our hotel some 8 hours later which wiped out the opportunity to go out in the evening.

Refereeing started early on the Saturday, with an 8.00am briefing before matches started at 9am. This was a long day and challenging on the legs with games going on til 7pm. By the time we had got back to the hotel and eaten it was time for bed.

Sunday started in a similar vein but for ourselves we were wrapped up about 5pm which allowed us some time to enjoy a few well earned beers and watch the U17 and U19 finals in the main stadium. This was followed by a late night visit to a restaurant at the insistence of Antonio (the tournament organiser) who was clearly delighted with its success. 


After a decent lie in we convened for a late breakfast before venturing into Lisbon. This was a great opportunity to reflect on the tournament, enjoy an few beers and take in some of the sights of Lisbon. A most enjoyable sunny day which really justified the late flight home.


This was a really good tournament and weekend away, many thanks to those who made it possible. The referees were well organised and were well catered irrespective of whether you want to challenge yourself to get to the next level or just enjoy your refereeing and the experience. If anyone does get offered this opportunity in the future, my advice is to grab the chance, it is an experience you will not forget in a long time.

Many thanks to Antonio and Freddy in Portugal for going out of their way to ensure that the referee experience was so special and indeed those within Manchester Society who offered and facilitated the opportunity to go on such a rewarding trip

Key Highlights

  • Appreciating that youth rugby in 2ndtier nations is of a pretty decent quality. The standard of rugby in particular from the Portuguese teams was very good, skill levels just as good as those displayed in the uk.
  • The quality of the tournament organisation. Given the logistical challenges, it ran like clockwork and was supported by top notch media coverage.
  • Getting to meet a great group of enthusiastic referees from both the UK and around the world.
  • Discovering and sampling Portuguese custard tarts.
  • Enjoying a beer and relaxing in the sun to watch the finals after 2 very long days.
  • Watching the American girls U19 team taking on the Australian side and giving everything to bring them to ground even if it took 3-4 tacklers. There must have been an average 4-5 stone per girl differential in weight.