February 28, 2009

Updated: RSPBA suspends overseas judges

The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association has notified its “international” judges that they have not been assigned to any RSPBA events in 2009, including several who judged at RSPBA competitions in 2008.
Removed until further notice are Greg Dinsdale, Ken Eller and Bob Worrall from Ontario, and Nat Russell, Brian Niven and Sam Young from Australia.
The suspensions stem from a decision made at the annual meeting of the RSPBA Adjudicators’ Panel in November 2008 at which it was decided that international judges needed to comply with a requirement to submit sample scoresheets from their work with their home associations for review by the RSPBA.
Failure to provide sample sheets resulted in notification from RSPBA Executive Officer Ian Embelton that they have not been assigned to any 2009 RSPBA competitions, including the World Pipe Band Championships where approximately one-third of bands are from non-RSPBA organizations.
“In accordance with the decision made at the Adjudicators Panel AGM in November you will be held in suspense until such time as the relevant documents are received,” Embelton’s letter stated.
RSPBA judging assignments reportedly have been made, although they have not yet been publicized and were posted by the organization on February 11. There are no international judges allocated to championships.
At the November meeting concern about a “double standard” was allegedly raised, since RSPBA judges’ have their sheets reviewed each year. It was then decided that all international judges would be required to submit sheets, including those who judged at RSPBA competitions. to keep their eligibility to judge RSPBA contests.
Most of the international judges affected were added to the RSPBA’s panel in 2005, but only after going through an extensive application process, that included a seminar, examination and trial-judging, even though most had had extensive judging experience with their home associations.
In Worrall’s case he has been a judge at RSPBA events since 1989, most of those years at the World Championships.
Some organizations, including the PPBSO, do not currently automatically make duplicates of score sheets, so copying would have had to be arranged in advance. In 2005, applicant international judges had to provide sample score sheets before they were allowed to go through the process.
In a letter to Embelton in response to being informed of the decision, Worrall wrote, “It is becoming obvious to me that the RSPBA Adjudicators Panel is attempting everything in its power to be protectionist. I truly believed that the RSPBA welcomed input from overseas adjudicators, adjudicators who would add a respected ‘international’ balance to the panel at major international competitions.”
The RSPBA does not provide any funding to international judges for air travel; they are offered the same honourarium that UK-based RSPBA adjudicators receive, which last year was 66 pounds for the World’s, 55 pounds for other championships and 42 pounds for non-championships. Sixty pounds are given for one-night’s accommodation, if needed.

Eller and Worrall have each conducted by invitation sessions at the RSPBA’s meeting of adjudicators following the World Championships.
Ironically, the RSPBA is said to be commencing a new Service Medal award to judges who have provided 20 or more years of commitment to judging their events, a milestone that Worrall reaches in 2009.

pipes|drums has asked Embelton for further comment but has so far has not received a response.


  1. Well said Duncan. The RSPBA is imposing a retrospective” requirement on these judges. What judges or PBA’s keep copies of individual band scoresheets? It makes one very suspicious when the RSPBA requires scoresheets only from the Home PBA. Is that because RSPBA already knows they didn’t keep any 2008 RSPBA individual scoresheets for these judges? This is analogous to invoking a new civil ordinance in 2009 and then fining people for not being in compliance in 2008. Highly irregular. Now then

  2. Again, isolationism in the face of change, seems to be rearing its’ ugly head. The RSPBA fears innovation and is digging in for the battle to preserve the old ways. And who is the harbringer of doom? Why it’s the colonists with their new-fangled ideas and open-mindedness! Boy those RSPBA members are infuriatingly predictable. I used to think of playing at the Worlds with awed reverence…but now I am completely turned off. How long can the RRSPB face the growing crowd with their fingers in their ears taunting I can’t hear you

  3. THE ROYAL SCOTTISH PIPE BAND ASSOCIATION” 1.0 Objects 1.1 The Association shall have for its objects: 1.2 To promote and encourage the culture and advancement of Pipe Band Music internationally

  4. Although a boycott might just be ignored by the RSPBA, they won’t be the only one affected. Glasgow would feel the effects of much lower attendance to their pre-Worlds festival, perhaps prompting the local government types to go knock on the RSPBA’s door and ask What the hey are you doing….”

  5. The RSPBA has score sheets written by these adjudicators at RSPBA events that it could review. Moreover, it would have comparable sheets on the same bands. Seems there is a double standard if the UK adjudicators can use sheets from RSPBA events but foreign adjudicators must get them from overseas. Some of the foreign adjudicators would be in the UK during events they could have judged overseas.

  6. Classic. Why wouldn’t the RSPBA use adjudication sheets from other RSPBA events that they’ve judged at?

  7. Additionaly, this would appear to be the RSPBA sanctioning the international judges because the RSPBA itself didn’t follow their own rules/proceedures! Cheers, Doc

  8. I’m sure the RSPBA has conducted the same review for all local judges as well. Particularly those judges on the panel who have played and won at the top level as well as instructed players who have won at the top level. I am relieved to see the RSPBA is resuming its consistent activities to ensure the Pipe Band World of its inability to be decent and fair. I’m waiting for the day when an uprising from our community boycotts the RSPBA and creates an organization with a music board which has a voice. Imagine the impact of having a World’s Best Pipe Band Contest in Los Angeles, Perth (Aus), Belfast, Dublin, Moscow or Toronto and have judges from EACH of those countries have a judging representation. Right now the Championship panels are all RSPBA judges. Outrageous! OPEN YOUR EYES RSPBA!

  9. Words fail me…nearly. This is nothing short of a massive leap backwards, and all because of an absurd and unreasonable bureaucratic requirement. The bands are the losers here, make no mistake. There is so much wrong with this decision. That’s it…words really do fail me. It’s madness.

  10. Unmitigated hubris! Sample score sheets?!?! This simply defies common sense, then again it’s not surprising, given the way the RSPBA ‘listens’ to its membership for input. The overseas panel has enough collective experience under their belts to warrant more respect than this. What a shame! I’ve read my share of sheets from the World’s and I can say, without any hesitation, that a few of the excluded judges could easily give extensive training workshops for the RSPBA on how to effectively communicate interpretations of a pipe band performance. When will this old boys club hand over the keys? The lights are already off.

  11. When this sort of behaviour took place in the Solo World there was a boycott! Don’t worry about the rights and wrongs of the regulation, or it’s implimentation, see it for what it is. Let’s face it RSPBA do not pay travel so as to discourage the overseas judges. I feel very sorry for the likes of Nat, Brian and Bob all of whom have waded through the petty red tape and nonsense to get to such a level only to have this pulled on them. Mark my words it will be a great year to be a home” band and a very poor one to be investing thousands to come from overseas. Bring on a “World Pipe Band Organisation” I say. Come on Canada and USA give us a real international contest to aspire to!”

  12. I imagine this reqirement to submit scoring sheets was a unilateral decision by the Adjudicating panel without consulting those affected. It seems the playing field isn’t level. In protest the overseas bands should boycott competitions in Scotland until the decision is reversed. Let’s have our voices heard! What are these establishment gents in the RSPBA so afraid of?

  13. why is everyone acting so suprised? I am not at all…..may be total BS…but not suprised. RSPBA…..the monopoly of the pipeband world….held with a deathgrip. but nobody will do anything about it, bc they dont want to be on their bad side”. bummer”

  14. It’s not clear to me whether the requirement to submit copies was known by all of these judges or not? I know of one OS judge who arranges for the organizers of local contests to give him copies of his sheets for submission to the RSPBA. It is ridiculous that the likes of Bob Worrall should have to submit score sheets, but we haven’t got the full story here, so people should hold back on their righteous indignation for a wee bit.

  15. Exactly what would anyone gain from looking st sheets written on bands that one is not familiar with? It seems to me sheets only mean something if you hear the performance.

  16. I wonder if some of the comments on the intentions of the RSPBA being purposely exclusionary, are premature or unfounded. Doubtlessly, based on the information in the article, the implementation of the decision is ham-fisted at best. Could it just be incompetence rather some malignant intention? Clearly, they appear remarkably short-sighted and prone to make ill-considered decisions that have no regard for the impact to stakeholders. Could reasoned discussion of the decision between the judges and the RSPBA lead to it being amended? Seriously…I’m not being sarcastic.

  17. 66 quid to have your good name raked thru the mud on the internet for months after??? Seriously people what is the incentive to even be an R.S.P.B.A. judge?? Its really become a mugs game for all involved…..

  18. The only way any kind of change will come is through boycotting or creating a viable alternative. Too bad nobody will actually boycott or create something new.

  19. Apologies if I seem alone in backing the plan, but if RSPBA judges of all levels require their sheets to be scrutinised, then it should be no different for overseas judges, no matter their previous experience. The process must be shown to be fair and equal. Where a problem may lie is if this proposal has only just been made, with sheets having to be submitted in retrospect. If it is news to the adjudicators, then it surely can only come into effect after a full season.

  20. The RSPBA has copies on record for the last two years at the World’s/Cowal for six of the overseas adjudicators. Several of their sheets were actually used during Adjudicators’ training sessions over the last two years. I personally have never had any notification of the need for my PPBSO sheets to be duplicated and forwarded on an annual basis until my availability form was received this past December. There are the facts. Bob Worrall

  21. ray hit the nail on the head. what can be achieved from scrutinising sheets without hearing the performances. its all very well being able to structure a crit-sheet and fill it with all the buzz words, but whether the content matches the perfomance is where most bandsmen find the problem, and its this which should be being scrutinised. its impossible to qualify whether anyone is a good judge based on whats written on those sheets, unless they have a high quality recording to listen to whilst analysing them. i dont know who dreamed this one up, hats off tho on making a right balls of it

  22. WOW! It’s a shame as we have the majority of more than qualified judges over here on our North American land. We could spend days throwing out theories, like they are keeping judges that might like The style of Toronto Police from progressing their sacred circle, or keep others from encouraging toe tapping and dancing in the circle i.e. Shotts (personally not a fan of that). It seems that in the wake of women not being allowed to be a part of an old mans club, that they have body snatched the RSPBA and are not limiting themselves from to just women. It saddens me that I am spending holiday to go over there for the Worlds with no Captain. Jamie

  23. Aren’t these the geniuses that killed the MSR in grade 4? O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us! Robt. Burns 1785

  24. Iain R.M., I know that you’re being sincere, but, from past experience reasoned discussion” and RSPBA have been proven to be mutually exclusive.”

  25. What Tano has taken from the RSPBA Web site should form the basis of any challenge against yet another self-serving boo boo. Taking it as gospel from Bob, if the RSPBA is in possession of sheets from 6 adjudicators from 2 years of competition in the UK, then why have they been subject to the discrimination of an additional layer of bureacracy not burdened by their UK based colleagues and subsequently punished? In the current ‘equality’ based world we live in, the punishment would not withstand any legal scrutiny. Nor should it be accepted. The adjudication panel is now without 6 fantastic judges and competitors have been robbed of their wisdom. Just some food for thought… how many of the remaining panel are enjoying age extensions to their tenures while 6 individuals all under the age of 70 have been excluded? Oh… and does Muttley want a medal? Grrrr yeah yeah yeah”! “

  26. And when it is said and done, everyone will pack up their kit and go trotting over to play in August, same as usual, and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (Canadian or American) in Glasgow and the surrounds. We’ll buy the DVDs next year, no royalties going to any of the performing bands. RSPBA will continue to be the arbiters of things pipe band. And we’ll all live happiliy ever after.

  27. Let’s face it the RSPBA just can’t handle losing to North American and Australian bands. If they keep out international judges then it really can remained fixed. They don’t want us and I can’t understand why we keep going. Fact is, it’s a old Scottish boys club, no girls and no foreigners, which is quite sad because up to date I have seen far more exciting pipe bands and ideas come from places other than Scotland.

  28. Well, that pretty much seals it for me. This doesn’t even come close to passing the giggle test. MAP,(stupid) base section competition eliminated (stupid), now we’re supposed to believe the likes of Mr. Worral are not qualified to judge over there?? The same guy that HOSTED the worlds broadcast for the BBC?? And they want to see our guys sheets? To those who have been judged by a Scottish judge overseas or in North America, how were your sheets… if you were able to read them… and if there were any comments on them??? Unfortunately I don’t have a world class band, but I don’t need one to boycott the worlds, NOT buy any cd’s or DVD’s, and encourage my friends and colleagues to do the same. This move, like the others, has absolutely nothing to do with the betterment of piping and drumming anywhere. Hard economy at the moment people, save your money, stay home this August. Better yet (and GOD I would love it if ALL the North American bands did this) just go to Maxville/Montreal. Let’s see if we can get a company to professionally record and produce cd’s/DVD’s of the North American Pipe Band Championships. This is beyond ridicules.

  29. I love all this … we are now into 2009, we are landing on the moon, taking strides in medical science, the world is progressing around us … the RSPBA YET AGAIN hit the rewind button and take more steps back Michael Jackson would be a proud of this moonwalk and a half. Isn’t it about time a break away Association should be considered ???

  30. Games in Los Vegas are April 18/19…..I should know….I’m judging there this year….:-)) Bob Worrall

  31. Stealth World Pipe Band Championships: The grade 1 bands carry on as usual only at some point during the day, agreed upon by the bands, the ‘unallotted’ judges have a listen to each band play a set and a selection. No qualifier. Best bass award given. Sheets and summaries to be posted on p|d.

  32. That’s a great loss. The RSPBA though would be justified in feeling threatened by the expertise from overseas. People would be in danger of receiving decent feedback, based on experience and knowledge of music, piping, drumming, ensemble playing etc. SOME of the Scottish based judges could learn a great deal from the overseas judges. Obviously there are exceptions. One of the highlights for me last summer, was listening to Bob Worrall INTRODUCING players at the Masters Invitational competition the day after the Worlds, and he was STANDING IN FOR GAVIN STODDART. It wasn’t even his gig. But the quality in what he was saying is what Scotland needs, before the RSPBA loses the lot to North America. It’ll be their loss if they don’t start getting their act together. And we’ll all be booking Air Canada tickets.

  33. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. No issue with any of these folks’ capability as judges….so what’s going on here? Churchill’s quote speil about Russia applies to the RSPBA…a riddle wrapped in an enigma shrouded in mystery….something like that. Weird.

  34. Furthermore, An iron curtain has descended across the Judging Panel”. Too bad. It really is an easy fix per the comments below.”

  35. I noticed on the RSPBA’s web-site that not ALL the International Adjudicators are banned, Ciaran Mordaunt seems to be Judging at a few events. Surely he is an International Adjudicator as he comes from Ireland (Outwith the UK). I wonder if he has been sending his sheets from the Irish contests to the RSPBA all these years?

  36. So the bumper sticker is true. If it’s not Scottish, it’s crrrrrrrap. Fine mess you’ve gotten us into this time RSPBA

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