Finals at European Ultimate Championships Moved to Avoid Bad Weather

Safety and facilities concerns have meant the games have shifted forward to Friday

Photo by Jordyn Harris for EUF.

The finals at the European Ultimate Championships, which were scheduled to be on Saturday, have been moved to Friday afternoon local time to avoid expected bad weather. The change, which will mean that teams who qualify for the finals will play the semis and finals on the same day, was made by the local organizing committee for primarily safety and field management reasons.

Liam Grant, one of the directors of the event, explained the rationale behind the move. “We have a great relationship with the university1 and they always have us try to avoid damaging fields wherever possible, that’s the approach they’ve had and we’ve worked with them on that,” he said.

“We made the decision on Tuesday to switch games around and put a lot of stuff on turf, we delayed some games. I hate making changes to the schedule but it is sometimes the right decision. I think that was the case on Tuesday, I’m very happy that we did that. The university have the Tag Rugby World Cup with 1800 participants on these fields soon and they want them in a playable state so we’ve been having daily, sometimes hourly, conversations about the quality of the pitches and doing our best to avoid damage. That is an ongoing relationship with the university and I don’t want to damage their pitches so that the Tag Rugby World Cup is bad, or Munster Rugby training or anything, so that is a big part of it.”

The safety of everyone at the tournament is also a significant concern for the organizing committee, though:

“In reality the field site is not that equipped for dealing with ceremonies or large crowds. It doesn’t have a proper stand2, and when there’s bad weather it can make the situation more dangerous and the risk is higher. I think that was very evident on the opening day last Saturday where I had fears about that, and I probably have even more fears after what happened during the opening game.”

The opening game between Germany and Ireland featured heavy rainfall and strong winds, making the action difficult to watch while making playing even harder. There were several instances of standing water gathering and players running through or landing in puddles while playing3.

“No one was hurt or anything but we had puddles of water on the field, that’s not something I want or that’s very safe, and we had people sliding down the hills which is a concern during finals,” said Grant. 

The wind is also a factor, with restrictions on how marquees can be fixed to the ground placed on organizers by the university.

“I think we had the Mayor of Limerick holding down a marquee at one stage on Saturday because marquees taking off becomes a concern and then you have the media with internet and power, how we protect the media [is a concern without marquees]. There’s a lot around the safety and in reality there’s a greater risk to people’s safety when the weather is bad here and you have a large crowd. I really felt that during the opening game and I want to avoid that if possible.”

There has been discussion among the teams likely to qualify for the later stages of the tournament about their displeasure with the decision. The majority of the issues revolve around preparation and recovery time, with the likelihood of having a team meeting to discuss the final and game plan for the opponent severely affected by the short turnaround time. Teams in the final are also likely to be playing three games in around 24 hours since the quarters are slated to take place on Thursday afternoon.

However, most of the feedback to the tournament organizers so far has been asking for the rationale behind the decision and no serious complaints have been lodged.

“Very few players have come to me and said anything,” Grant confirmed. “Some people have asked and I think it’s very fair to ask. Playing the semis and finals on the same day is not ideal, I’d much rather put them on Saturday but I think [moving them] is the right thing to do. One or two people have come to me and said ‘oh that’s a risk, playing two games on the Friday’ but every other team was already going to play two games on the Friday, it was only the finalists that weren’t. For everyone else it’s basically the same schedule. People might highlight the mentality of playing two games, of course that’s tougher on players I would say. Again, it’s not something I want to do but at the moment I think it’s the right decision.”

The final point that Grant wanted to address was the possibility that the schedule may change again if the weather forecast changes. For anyone who has attended any events in Limerick, the forecast changing at a moment’s notice would hardly be the most surprising thing in the world. The organizers are, however, confident that the forecast will not improve ahead of Saturday:

“The later it goes the less likely that becomes. We’re confident that Saturday will be bad and very similar to the opening day with strong winds and rain. There’s also a small risk of thunderstorms, a small one but does factor in. Friday looks really nice but at some point that bad weather will hit. We don’t know how early but I wouldn’t be surprised if the bad weather begins before we’re finished, some time on Friday afternoon. We’re trying to get everything done before it does for all the reasons given.”

Ultimately the change is not ideal for any of the stakeholders at the event, but safety concerns are often the most critical for tournament organizers. The teams who want to win this tournament and become European champions will have to make adjustments and adapt.

  1. The owner and operator of the fields site is the University of Limerick. 

  2. Rather than fixed seating, there is a large hill that spectators typically sit on to watch showcase games. 

  3. At 31.15 of the link above, there’s a replay of a score where Ireland’s Robbie Brennan is very clearly running through a large puddle in the downwind endzone 

  1. Sean Colfer
    Sean Colfer

    Sean Colfer is based in London. He’s played for teams across the UK since 2006 and has been writing about and commentating on ultimate since 2010. Follow him on Twitter @seancolfer, or follow @ShowGameUlti on Instagram for more on UK and Irish ultimate.


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