Referees' Feature - Gareth Elliott - Part 11

Gareth is going great guns in football and athletics

Gareth Elliott (Assistant)Gareth Elliott is best known in the Pembrokeshire sporting fraternity as a football referee but he is also a more than useful long-distance runner who has competed for the Pembrokeshire Harriers - and has already run 11 marathons, including London (twice), Dublin (seven times) Cardiff, and, most recently, in Amsterdam.

Loved the Amsterdam Marathon

Ask Gareth about his favourite marathon that he has taken part in so far and his answer is immediate:
“I ran the Amsterdam Marathon in October 2019 and my father Bob came along with me to give support, using his experiences in marathon running, as he always does.
“We had five smashing days in the Dutch city after flying there from Cardiff and we were made very welcome by the local people as we ran along a fairly flat course.
“I finished in 3 hours 25 minutes which was a little slower than I had hoped for but I went off too quickly and paid the price late on – but it was a great occasion, especially running into the Olympic Stadium, and I would love to go back there sometime.”

Twice competed in the London Marathon and is set on a third one!

Gareth has also run the London Marathon on two occasions, the first in 2014 and the second a year later.
“You could never really describe the atmosphere,” he told us, “because there are so many athletes involved and it takes ages just to get started. The crowd are absolutely packed along the whole route and there were some fantastic fancy dress costumes – and some famous people taking part.”
Indeed, in his first run he passed former England footballer Michael Owen, paralympian Danny Crates and ex-Emmerdale actor Tony Wilkenshaw,

Trains hard, with marathons galore . . .

Gareth trains regularly with the Pembrokeshire Harriers and has also started training with the Pembrokeshire Tri Club on Friday evenings as a means of widening his perspective, although he readily admits that it is for running only because although he could cycle if needed the thought of swimming in open water certainly wouldn’t appeal!
“I have also taken part in the Dublin Marathon seven times, with dad always there cheering me on, and in 2015 I achieved my personal best time of 3 hours 5 minutes. I have also run in the Manchester Marathon in 2018 (3 hours 10 minutes) and the Newport Marathon in 2019 (3 hours 15 minutes) and my ambition is to run a third London Marathon and to travel further afield again.
“But in the meanwhile my next targets this year, virus permitting of course, are the Southampton Marathon (late April) and the Chester Marathon (October).”

. . . But also loves competing at shorter distances

Gareth has also done well in local road races over 5k and 10k at venues like Fishguard, Haverfordwest, Cardigan and St Davids, alongside winning an 8k run in Crymych.
"It was a very hilly course, which suited my stamina," admitted Gareth, "and what was doubly nice was that I made lots of new friends at the finish, which always happens."
"I have also run for the Harriers and in a West Wales Championships I achieved personal bests in both the 3,000 and 5,000 metres, so I was really pleased with that.”

From football player to football referee

Moving on to his football involvement, Gareth played football for Prendergast Villa and Haverfordwest County but it was Steve John, then coaching the Bluebirds' Pembrokeshire League side, who suggested he might enjoy refereeing - and Gareth took the refs' course, held by Pedr McMullen, alongside Sean O'Connor (Goodwick), Gary Davies and Tony Davey (Herbrandston), Stuart and Daniel McNiffe (Hundleton).
“My first match was between Letterston 2nds and Neyland 2nds. I was a bit nervous but it went OK and I still enjoy being part of the game. I've been reffing for quite a while now and so far I've had the under 12 and under 14 finals – and the under 16 final between Tenby and Camrose a couple of seasons ago which I really enjoyed.

Gareth Elliott (centre) with Refs   Society chairman Chris Stapleton and president Danny Thomas

Refereed cup finals – and running the line for big matches

“I was on the line for Dai Badger in the Third Division Final between Goodwick 2nds and Haverfordwest Cricket Club before I reffed that division’s final myself between Broad Haven and Milford Athletic, as well as the Division Four Final between Pennar Thirds and Monkton Seconds.
“So far I have been on the line for two Senior Cup Finals where James Olyott and Tom Bevan were the referees – and I enjoyed the atmosphere at both of them.
"I was also assistant to Dai, with Tom Bevan, for the McWhirter Cup Final between Ely Rangers and West End at Afan Lido - and a couple of weeks later I was with Charles Davies and Phil Gale for this season's McWhirter Cup semi-final between Haverfordwest County and Cambrian & Clydach.”

Dave Badger, Alan Boswell and Gareth Elliott

Moving up a level as a ref – but sad that players can be so aggressive

Gareth has also been refereeing first division matches, the latest between West Dragons and St Clears, and as well as being on the line for Welsh League games took charge of the Division Two match between Garden Village and West End.
"I was fast tracked with Tom Bevan and had top ref Mark Whitby as my mentor - and he was terrific in helping me to learn more about being in the middle. My running helped with the fitness tests and I have been assessed regularly, and been pleased with my marks.
“We are assessed regularly and my highest mark so far was for a Hakin United versus Neyland match where Dai Rees, who is a very thorough assessor, gave me 8.3 out of 10, which I was very pleased about with two good teams involved in a competitive game.”
“If I’m honest I found last season to be my hardest because there were too many players losing their tempers on the field. All I want is for them to enjoy their games and be good sports because we are all trying our best.
"I just want to keep improving and enjoying being involved in football as a referee, where I have so many friends who I have made through the game.”

And finally . . . Back to athletics!

Going back to athletics to round things off, it is good to report that Gareth is not only taking part as a competitor but has also began putting something back in as an administrator.
“I attended a course with representatives from Welsh Athletics and I’m now a Health and Safety Officer with the Gwent League, which runs meetings from West Wales to the South of England.
“It means I will hopefully be very busy this summer and if things go ahead I will have to attend a monthly meeting in Cardiff – and at athletics meetings my work will include inspecting the courses, doing risk assessments, checking accident report books and any other aspect of our sport that need looking at.
“I will also go to the Welsh and British Championships alongside much smaller meetings and another aspect of my role is in heling as an official at field events – and to get involved at cross country championships because that is another area I have also really enjoyed competing in.
“I enjoy just being involved and I was really pleased that before Christmas I was awarded my bronze medal for helping Welsh Athletics. That is for long service and I also plan to carry on helping as long as I possibly can because athletics is a great sport.”

James Olyott, Keith Amos and Gareth Elliott