Interview with Ed Rial - February 2003

Age 20
Born Hull, resides Birmingham.
University of Birmingham 2000-date Theoretical Physics

In three weeks, Birmingham will host BUSA Indoor Championship 2003. How large an undertaking is it going to be.

All in all most of the work will have already been done, and for the day we will have at our disposal several people experienced in the running of the BUSA tournaments. Obviously things might not necessarily go to plan, but the University of Birmingham is used to holding large BUSA events, and as we have the full backing of our Athletic Union in this event, the day should run very smoothly.

Can you explain exactly the chain of events involved in the bid?

After seeing that the Indoors was being discussed on the Cambridge’s messageboard, I figured, ‘Birmingham should put in a bid’! At the end of last year when it came to national archery we were a distinctly mediocre club, and so I thought hosting BUSA would remind people of Birmingham’s existence. There was no great opposition to the idea from the club and so I started to try and find info on how to bid, which was much harder than it should have been. Most of my guidance actually came from Ian McGibbon, as there were no big arrows saying ‘Come here for lots of info on the bidding process’, and a chance message by Ian provided most of our information.

The next step was to inform our various University sports bodies (three in Birmingham’s case), to see how they would react to us putting a bid in. If they had not been willing to help then the bid would not have gone in. Anyway, this led to a proposal being drafted to satisfy the University’s requirements.

One of the documents sent to us by Ian was Imperial’s successful bid for the 2001 Outdoors, and so after some careful ‘research’ into that document, a startlingly similar one was produced and e-mailed to Marie at BUSA HQ. Then I heard through the grapevine that Birmingham were to host the championships. (It wasn’t very much in doubt as we were the only people putting in a bid, but it still would’ve been nice to have an e-mail telling me).

Other important issues that needed to be tackled before the bid was entered were boss hire and the judges.

How will you use the tournament to promote archery within Birmingham University?

Actually nothing I had particularly thought about, other than a report in the sports pages of the University newspaper. Thinking on though, it will definitely be a major point come next year’s fresher’s fair. Also, we hope that many archers will choose to invade the club night we are offering tickets for, and thus interact with the ‘hoi-polloi’ of Birmingham Uni, and raise their interest in archery. However, any better suggestions on how we could use this to our advantage would be much welcomed!

How do you react to the suggestion that Newcastle University Sports Union withdrew support for Newcastle’s bid to host BUSA Indoor 2001 because if anything went wrong it would reflect poorly on the university?

In short, with shock and horror. Our Athletic Union is very supportive and appreciate that if they put as much effort into the tournament as we are, then it is likely to be a rousing success and reflect very well on the University and the club. You reap what you sow, and my opinion of Newcastle University has just dropped immeasurably!

Turning to more immediate matters, the third BUTTS Round is next weekend. What are your and the team’s targets?

I have two targets, to break 500 (which I did for the first time a couple of weeks ago, yay!) and to beat all of our novices! Obviously we are expecting to soundly beat all novice competition, and for the experienced team I expect we should be aiming for 2000 and to pull away from the bottom of the table. If our star archer can make it then a 2100 score would be very nice!

After two rounds, as you say, Birmingham lie bottom of the Senior BUTTS table, having finished last with 1911 in the first round but then third with 2019, including a 576 (smashing the BUTTS record) from Naomi Folkard. What can we expect from Birmingham this season?

You can probably expect a roller-coaster ride of high placings and distinct mediocrity. It’s all very well having Britain’s No.1 female archer in the club, but if she keeps having to go to national training sessions she’s not going to be bumping up the team’s score! Having said that the rest of the club is gathering strength, asides from Naomi we have five archers hovering around the 500 mark, including two novices. Regarding the BUSAs, I reckon we should be in contention for a top 10 placing in the indoors (we were 15th last year) and improving on our 8th place in the outdoors.

On the novice front I think we are in with a good chance of winning medals both individually and in the novice team events at both the indoors and outdoors.

Birmingham are top (with two victories from two rounds) of the Novice BUTTS table and have an excellent track record in producing good quality novice archers over recent years. What advice could you provide to other universities who are less effective?

I do not know what it is that we do to produce these good novices that is not done at other Universities. We do have two excellent coaches, and we experienced archers are all too willing to pass down what we know. I guess it could be that because the same coaches have taught almost all of our experienced archers, we are all singing from the same hymn sheet. Our novices generally do not find themselves being told different styles or technique by different people, and becoming confused.

Also, as a club, we are very well off for equipment. I don’t think there are many clubs in the country who have enough metal bows to begin to hand them out to novices, and although we do have jelly bows in our equipment, in my three years at the club I have never seen them used.

Being top of the Novice BUTTS table and bottom of the Senior BUTTS implies that you are poor at converting good novices into good seniors. Do you agree and if so, what can you do to improve?

I don’t agree with this. Our trouble is that for the last two years at least, our best novices have been in their final year. They can’t go on and become good experienced archers in university archery if they don’t stay at university. I suppose the next question is why aren’t those that stay behind becoming good seniors, and I’d probably have to say they are spending too much time training novices.

Another factor is the very high turnover rate of members within the club. The longest serving member has only been with the club since October 2000, and in comparison with other universities we do not, in general, get experienced archers coming to study at Birmingham.

The BUTTS Challenge Trophy is in eighth season and is thus the oldest truly independent regional league. SWWUAL and NEUAL have had organisational problems notably with Plymouth and Newcastle vanishing. What advice do you have for the organisers?

Hmm. As you say, BUTTS is the oldest league, and as such has a lot of inertia. I would say the reason it remains a success is because of this inertia, and my job has been reduced to ordering the medals and ensuring that the participating universities have organised their legs. If I ceased to exist tomorrow the league would still endure as the 6 participating universities simply expect the competitions to happen.

The best advice I can give is to badger the captains/presidents of member clubs until they have their hall booked! If the enthusiasm for the league can be passed onto the captains of other clubs then the league will thrive. Also, try next year to re-integrate Newcastle and Plymouth, different committee, different outcome. Also pester the clubs until they pay you the money they owe you! (That comment was in every way directed at the captains/ treasurers of Warwick, Cambridge and Birmingham! A cheque on Saturday would be very much appreciated!)

How did you get the job of BUTTS Organiser?

OK, imagine the scene of a beautiful summer’s day in the back of a Cambridge beer garden, the last BUTTS leg of the ‘01/’02 season had been concluded and all the Cambridge archers were feeling far too smug having won both the senior AND novice challenge trophies. It was then announced that Anna Tillman of Warwick was retiring after two successful years as organiser, and would someone please be the next BUTTS organiser… please…pretty please…

And so I said I would do it. Looking back it was probably a foolish thing to do, as if I’d held out for another minute or so I could’ve probably gotten a pint out of it.

Do you think that BUTTS has the best structure for a league of its size?

Yes. The way it stands it encourages mixing between universities and it is a friendly environment to introduce novices to competition, the primary aim of the BUTTS league.

Would BUTTS consider admitting new members and what implications would this have on the tournament’s structure?

There were noises last year about Wolverhampton joining the league and Cambridge leaving to start a new South-East and London league, although nothing has been mentioned this year. I think that it is a very good structure, and encourages the mixing of archers from different universities, which could be lost to some extent if the format were changed to a SUSF style. Obviously if the number of universities did increase, the format would have to be revised, 6 tournaments a year can be tight at the best of times, I dread to think what 7 would be like. Also several member universities would be unable to hold more than 6 teams in one day.

Does BUTTS have the highest standard of archery of the four regional leagues?

We have two of the countries leading universities in our league, so I reckon we have a pretty high standard. Of course the league does suffer a bit from the best archers treating it as a low-level competition, and so either not turning up or not necessarily putting their best efforts in. That of course could be slander/libel so can I stress that it is simply my impression and not a criticism! But again high level competitive competition is exactly what BUTTS is not about. The emphasis is gently introducing novices to competition, and shooting on the same target as someone who F’s and blinds every time they hit an 8 can at times be discouraging for novices.

Email and the Internet have had a big impact on British University archery (and rest of the world), notably the new, faster IUPL. You have been very active in this regard, notably with the shiny new BUTTS website – again the only one of its kind. How different is the situation now with respect to 5 or 10 years ago?

With regards to 5 years ago, not very, as there has been a website for BUTTS results for many years, however with respect to 10 years ago it is very different. All of the organisation for the BUTTS league has been done via e-mail, and information on tournaments has been distributed via e-mail and messageboards within clubs. In organising BUSA I had to organise bosses through telephone and snail mail, which was quite a pain!

If the Internet disappeared tomorrow, what would British university archery actually lose?

Communication, flexibility, UKSAA, the list is quite extensive. I doubt there is a single thing that university archery would gain through the loss of the internet, apart from time saved not reading all the interesting discussions on various message boards

The UKSAA exists almost exclusively as a website. Is an online organisation with an almost zero physical existence an unnecessary development?

No, if nothing else it serves as a resource library for all sorts of useful items, not least the information on how to place a bid for any BUSA event. It is a clear and useful way to distribute information on competitions and to see how universities outside your local league are faring.

Also, there is no reason why the UKSAA shouldn’t evolve into something like a regional Association, and come under the umbrella of GNAS, only instead of representing a geographical region to GNAS, representing a social region.

Birmingham University Toxophily and Toucan Society. The toucan seems to be fairly well established as Birmingham’s mascot, where did it come from and why?

Way back at the dawn of time itself, about thirty or so years ago, the Great Toucan God called a small group of students unto him and he spake thusly:

"Hear ye, my faithful acolytes, there is a dire need for a band of students to take up the sport of toxophily. If such a band were formed I would bestow great prowess in the aforementioned sport to these students, and also a great ability to drink much beer, and eat many baltis. All I demand is a small sacrifice of one virgin maiden dressed in white at the beginning of each competition, and thenceforth, much honour will be won by you for your university."

So spake the Great Toucan God.

And so the club was named after the Great Toucan in the great God’s honour, and a Toucan Master General appointed to ensure the safe-keeping of any Toucan-like mascots the club owned. It soon became realised that the sacrifice of virgins was destroying the club’s image, and so a deal was brokered with the Great Toucan God, and the virgin was replaced with a ceremonial Mars Bar.

And so this myth has been passed down amongst Birmingham toxophilists for generations, and the toucan has nothing to do with the founding members being Guinness drinkers and a vain effort to make a slightly rude acronym. I currently hold the honour of being Birmingham’s Toucan Master General, and I now head a Grand Toucan Army of three dedicated officers. So watch out Loughborough and Warwick, you mascot thieving scum!