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Alison Jordan: officiating case study

We caught up with top level Technical Official Alison Jordan at the Loughborough International this year and talked about her experiences and her officiating journey.

Alison has been around athletics tracks since she was 'knee high to the proverbial grasshopper' and originally qualified as a Track Judge. Many go into officiating because they are the parent of an athlete; for Alison it was because she was the child of an official! When injured as a club athlete somebody said she could always take the basic level officials' exam for track. So 28 years ago, that's what she did, although she now specialises in photofinish and is also a World Athletics Silver Referee.

Why did you decide to specialize in photofinish?

The honest answer is I didn't initially. I qualified as a track official and I'm still a track official. But back in the old grade system when you got to Grade 2 (Level 3), you got your Regional selections - and I suddenly found myself appointed as Photofinish Judge for a Midlands meeting.

"I turned up not knowing what to do, got taught how to use photofinish, and it followed on from there."

And I have always done and still do a bit of both - track and photofinish. I was asked by UKA if I would go on a European course back in 2015 to be assessed for it, and the rest is history.

Photofinish room overlooking stadium

What's your favourite memory at a world class event?

Oh, there's loads of memories. Whether it's signing your first world record form, which I got to do as a Chief Photofinish at a Diamond League and I got to do this year as the Track Referee at the World Indoors - and I've lost count of the number of para-athletics ones I've seen as an IPF. But my favourite is the first world record I ever read back in 2012.

Tokyo ID

"My most memorable moment has got to have come from the Paralympics in Tokyo, where most people remember that joint bronze medal for Johnny Peacock and Johannes Floors. I was sweating - and partly that was the humidity - but yes, that was one I think I'm always going to remember because my phone was pinging big time after that with a few cheeky comments."

What's been your biggest challenge when you've been officiating?

I think one of the biggest challenges was back in 2021, with all the Covid restrictions going on, for international travel. Going to Poland for the European Team Championships that year; when you saw shot putters coming out from the Covid nasal swab testing and their eyes were watering, you knew what it was going to be like. And just the general communication with masks on and everything that went with that.

Then going to Tokyo later that year the Covid tests were of a different style, the ones where you spit into a test tube. And sometimes the challenge was - this is going to sound disgusting - actually getting it into the test tube. It got messy, especially at 4am on marathon morning day. So yeah, masks and Covid tests.

Officials in covid masks Tokyo

Where do you go from here? What's still on your officiating wish list?

Perhaps not my wish list per se - although there are still things I would love to do and places I would love to go with athletics - but next stop in Rome for my first appointment as a Referee perhaps? Not in photofinish - so actually out on the field of play somewhere and it's slightly daunting, slightly nerve wracking. As yet I don't know what role I'll have in Rome. I will find out shortly before I get there. [Note Alison has just returned from Rome where she was Track Referee.] So yes, my first World Athletics Referee silver level appointment - sort of back to the start.

You still officiate at grassroots: what's your favourite thing about that level of competition?

Official with Leonard the Lion mascot

It's the camaraderie you get with the officials. Plus the big thing is seeing people come through from the youngest age groups right the way up if the county has got masters events going on.

When you watch people developing through the sport - you see someone competing who is under 13, and when you're still officiating ten years later, they are competing at the highest levels.

Any ideas on how we can get young people into officiating?

That's the $6 million question, isn't it? If I knew the answer I could sell it to people. Actually, it's a worldwide problem; talking to officials from other countries, they've got the same issues and all our conversations seem to be if anybody hits on the answer, please share it so that we can get it going everywhere around the world. It's a perpetual problem.

Officials at Santiago 2023

Photo of Alison in red: by Peter Milsom. Other photos with permission.

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