August 19, 2023

Friday Grade 1 MSR judge Nat Russell’s results scrubbed from World’s tally; rocks pipe band world

In a decision that is already rocking the pipe band world, the RSPBA elected to delete the results from Friday Grade 1 MSR result, potentially altering the final Grade 1 Championship aggregate.

In a letter passed out to Grade 1 competing bands after the results were announced, the RSPBA said verbatim:


The Directors of The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association has expressed concern regarding administrative shortcomings in the adjudication process involving a piping Adjudicator in the Grade 1 MSR leg of the World Pipe Band Championship on Friday, 18th August 2023. After due consultation with The APMB representatives and the Adjudicator concerned, the Directors remain of the view that they must have confidence that the process of overall evaluation is foolproof and that the reputation of the World Pipe Band Championship is protected. As a consequence, the overall placing of the Adjudicator concerned will not be included in this year’s computation of results.

The Board of Drirectors [sic].

The “APMB” is the RSPBA’s Adjudicator Panel Management Board, which is convened by John Wilson. Wilson was a Saturday Grade 1 Medley piping judge.

According to unconfirmed reports, Russell had placed eventual winners Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia fourteenth in the Friday MSR.

There are no specific rules about how a judge is to assess a pipe band competition, leaving it completely up to the adjudicator to use whatever method or priorities he or she wishes. Once a result is put in, it is supposed to stand.

Despite the RSPBA electing not to use Russell’s Friday Grade 1 result, he judged Heat 1 of Grade 4A on Saturday. Because the RSPBA has yet to publish results from the World’s in any grade, we do not know if Russell’s Grade 4A results were counted.

There are no specific rules about how a judge is to assess a pipe band competition, leaving it completely up to the adjudicator to use whatever method or priorities he or she wishes. Once a result is put in, it is supposed to stand.

In instances when a judge’s results are consistently out of line with perceived norms of judging, measures can be taken to reduce the judge’s assignments or even pull him/her from the panel.

The RSPBA electing to nullify a judge’s marks is believed to be a first in the history of the organization. That it occurred at the biggest and most important competition on earth is truly extraordinary and unfortunate.

“You have a result at the World Championship that is judged by one piping judge, one drumming judge, and one ensemble judge –  against all agreed rules of the association,” said one observer who commented on the condition of anonymity.

Others lauded the RSPBA for taking action.

Stay tuned to pipes|drums for more on this unfolding story.

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    1. I first met Nat Russell when he first came to Australia to take over the Victoria Police Pipe Band during my piping years with Haileybury pipe band and as PM of 5/6 RVR. So far it doesn’t appear Nat has been given the opportunity of defending his decision regarding the grade one MSR result . Obviously this is in the hands of the piping panel but I hope this talented and experienced adjudicator will be able to speak soon and provide some insight into this matter before speculation continues through this medium.

    1. Well done RSPBA. Some backbone and accountability is finally welcome. Judge should be banned from ever adjudicating a contest such as the Worlds ever again.

    2. Sorry, by this, since Friday’s MSR was the first judging, do you mean to say that Nat actually knew Boghall was going to win even though he hadn’t heard all elements? That is the only way he possibly could have tried to ‘wreck the chances of a worthy champion’ because he could not possibly know. Besides, how does anyone know what he could hear.

  1. I support the RSPBA’s decision to remove Friday MSR piping scores from Nat Russell. It’s sad that it happened. It’s a step in the right direction for the RSPBA. [edited] I wasn’t able to hear the MSR from yesterday. I heard both of their performances today. There’s no doubt in my mind that they didn’t deserve what they got.

  2. I think in the heat of this decision, it is unfair to make Nat the bad one here without seeing all his numbers from the MSR and without him having a chance to explain the huge disparity.
    Did he hear a piper cut out or stop playing momentarily? It has happened before with the second judge unaware. Not saying this is the case and the RSPBA might ultimately have made the correct decision. However, a rush to judgement is just that, a rush. I want to hear from the judge.

    1. There are statistical methods that can mark a score (ranking) as an outlier or not. If it’s an outlier, we can test for “special cause variation”, as opposed to “common cause variation”.

      So, for example, if a ranking is positive for a “special cause”, it gets investigated.

      Maybe the special cause is, as Martin Docherty said, one judge heard something the others did not. Another special cause variation would be bias. Lots of people seem to jump to that one pretty quickly. There are many causes of Special Cause Variation”; it would take about fifteen minutes on my laptop to parse this all out, then ask the judge what the variation, if it exists, is all about. Investigate. The RSPBA might have done the right thing, but we won’t know until we see the data.

      I can’t imagine this kind if analysis wasn’t done behind closed doors on some level. If it wasn’t, it would be quite easy to make that routine.

      Something like this would prevent one set of scores from tanking a band without a reason. If there is a reason, write it done and the case is closed.

    2. Nat heard nothing of the sort, he has form. It was a ridiculous and vindictive action to stop a good band from winning their first ever world title and for once the association stepped in. The recordings are the proof. Boghall won the world’s fair and square. The episode could be put to bed quickly if Richard Parkes issued a statement saying that he accepted the result yesterday and that we move on to 2024

      1. RSPBA’s decision certainly leaves many unanswered questions. Did RSPBA believe Nat just made one bad call on one band? Why not throw out all his judging sheets? If we think his judging Boghall is so out of line, who knows how sound his judgments on other bands are. From the recordings, I though St. Thomas deserves a much better placing.

  3. Unfortunately this put a question mark against this year World Champions win. Maybe they should of not have used any of the Friday MSR scoring, thrown out the entire event and only used Saturday MSR scores if there was an issue with one of the judges scoring. Like in a previous comment, maybe the judge heard a piper cutout or something. But the bottom line is that the RSPBA needs to get there act together for these major competitions. We learned earlier this year they didn’t know how to add up the scores properly.

  4. Rules are rules. RSPBA cannot just throw out a judge’s decision simply because it is “concerned” about it. They should change their rules to make it absolutely clear when a result can be thrown out. How do we know if other judges” placings are not fair? RSPBA should review all judging results and not just the “one” someone complained about. Maybe RSPBA puts two much focus on who is the champion. These are all great bands playing great music. The placings are all kind of arbitrary anyway.

  5. Have a look at Grade 2. One band 18th from both piping judges and 18th in drumming but 2nd in ensemble. Really??? Let’s have some consistency. Let’s see if the RSPBA investigate that one.

  6. So, Am I correct in saying in 2008 at a Major Championship, One piping judge had FM 1st and the other had them last.
    Yet these results weren’t scrubbed. Why would that be?
    Its a total nonsense!!!

    1. Accoring to what the rules seem to say….. a judge has final say on a the contest result/rankings that he submits.
      Perhaps the judge requested for them to be scrubbed because he recognized an error after submitting the scores.
      If that’s the case then the Association didn’t actually make the ruling. The judge did.



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