Earlier this week, Richard Ashdown revealed on his personal Facebook account, that he was celebrating two years as the BDO’s Master of Ceremonies – I spoke to Richard not to long ago about what it takes to be a professional referee.
If you thought the Darts Referees just turn up at major tournaments, call out some numbers and then go and have a few beers, you’d be wrong! Also, if you think “I know how to finish 85 – I could mark a match on stage”, again, you’d be wrong (probably!)!
One of the first things that became apparent when chatting with Richard, is that what he lacks in height, he certainly makes up for in enthusiasm in answering questions! As good as he is at words though, numbers are really his thing.
Hi Richard. Please tell us about your journey from grass roots darts to the BDO’s Master of Ceremonies.
“I’m afraid this is not a short answer! I started out as a keen player when in my teens and played county youth darts for Cambridgeshire. At 16 years of age I attended a Bobby George darts exhibition and met the great man for the first time. We soon got chatting about the maths of darts and quirky ways to check out and I guess he saw some early potential in me with the numbers.
“…I had notched up 12 Lakeside’s with the BBC and been on stage at over 40 BDO ranking events…”
Richard Ashdown, talking ‘appearance’ numbers
“Having exchanged letters and then meeting him again on a couple of occasions, Bobby became more aware of my knowledge of darts and especially how I knew all the players counting preferences on the dartboard – I was a complete anorak! (laughs)
“As a 23 year old I attended the Lakeside World Championships in 2002 and unknown to me the ‘spotter’ for the BBC did not turn up on the first day. Bobby gave me a call and asked if I could do it, to which I gave a resounding “YES!”. I spent the next 8 days telling the director and cameramen where the players would throw and I absolutely loved it.
“Soon after, Bobby also gave me the opportunity to call my first exhibition with him, due to his regular MC being unavailable. In the months and years that followed, I continued as his reserve and gained valuable stage experience both as a referee and a front man. My reputation slowly built up with the help of Bobby and I was soon working for various TV companies as a spotter, with other professional players at exhibitions and then began hosting and refereeing tournaments.
“This began at the 2004 Swedish Open and other recommendations soon followed with Denmark and Finland hiring me in 2005. When the England Darts Organisation was formed in 2007 they took me on as Master of Ceremonies at all EDO events going forward. I also refereed my first TV majors in 2007 at the IDL and World Trophy events in the Netherlands and then the League of Legends on Setanta a year later. The journey continued when Denmark asked me to front the 2008 WDF European Cup alongside Jacques Nieuwlaat and we have hosted every WDF European and World Cup since.
“By 2013 I had notched up 12 Lakeside’s with the BBC and been on stage at over 40 BDO ranking events, so following Martin Fitzmaurice’s resignation it seemed the natural progression for me and one that was warmly received by both the BBC and the BDO.”
“I knew the date rang a bell… it’s two years today since I was appointed the BDO’s Master of Ceremonies… it’s absolutely flown by! Thoroughly enjoyed every event so far and I look forward to a third year on stage… thanks to the BDO directors, referees, officials, players and supporters for making it all so enjoyable…”
Richard Ashdown, Facebook (20th April 2015)
What other BDO duties do you have at tournaments?
“As well as being the BDO’s Masters of Ceremonies I am also the head referee, so my main responsibility is with them. I am in charge of the referee stage rota and ensuring that everyone is in the right place at the right time. Early on in the day my focus is getting my statistics and notes in order, making sure that I have all my information to hand. When I take to the stage to introduce matches I always have a small card in my hand in case of any blank spots when introducing the players. It gives me confidence and I rarely have to look at it, but I know it’s there.”
“As well as being the BDO’s Masters of Ceremonies I am also the head referee, so my main responsibility is with them. I am in charge of the referee stage rota and ensuring that everyone is in the right place at the right time.”
Richard Ashdown, on BDO Duties
What does a typical tournament day look like for you?
“It’s very difficult to explain exactly how a typical day pans out because it’s always different, but I always need to be on hand if there should be any dispute or query. I liaise at all times with the BDO Tournament Director and we just make sure that all bases are covered. As MC, my role is not just to bring players on, but to keep the audience informed and entertained before and in between the games, so I spend a lot of time running backwards and forwards to stage. I’m there as a link between stage and sound/screen so I’m in constant contact with the tournament director, referees, players marshall, DJ and floor manager helping everything run as smoothly as possible.”
What has been your most troublesome moment when refereeing?
“This is always a fun conversation to have with all the referees as we’ve all got our stories of little blips and quirky moments. I have a few myself. I can recall on a couple of occasions almost calling game shot when the double wasn’t in, but as the arm twitched I realised it wasn’t! Mervyn King once said to me “not yet!”, then threw the second dart and said “now it is!”. (laughs) Gary Anderson also had to laugh when my arm moved, but again he hit tops with his next dart to save my blushes. These were in the early years and I’ve learned to calm down now!!
“I head a very talented team of referees at the BDO and I’m very proud of them.”
Richard Ashdown, handing out praise
How about going completely blank? Ever do that?
“Well, at the televised World Darts Trophy in 2007, Dennis Priestley hit 20 and T19 to leave 184, stopped for while and asked me what’s left. I answered and then spent the next 10 seconds working out the 6 different ways he might throw with his last dart. He hit T14 and I began to call, but then I just went blank… it was only a few seconds but inside it felt like an eternity. It didn’t help with Dennis saying “take your time” as I recounted it – I got there in the end (thanks Dennis!).”
Thanks for reading part one of our interview with Richard, In part two Little Richard tells us about favourite dart places, the PDC, sporting heroes, and 2015.