Players, refs, spectators — and pink ambassadors — get behind Weir Rose Bowl

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By Rachel Lilburn

More than 700 players, 22 young referees and hundreds of spectators benefitted from three days of quality junior football at this year’s Weir Rose Bowl.

The 2023 Weir Rose Bowl was held in the October school holidays (September 29 to October 1) at St Peter’s School, Cambridge.

A kaleidoscope of weather — rain, wind, sunshine, and even a hailstorm — greeted the almost 700 players across 51 teams, from 23 clubs across the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Auckland and Northland.

The referee development programme saw 22 youth referees, ranging in age from 14-18, officiating all games under the guidance of 11 referee coaches.

Congratulations go to East Coast Bays (U-13 Mixed winners) and Eastern Suburbs (U-14 Girls winners). Cambridge AFC finished as U-13 Mixed runners-up and Auckland United were U-14 Girls runners-up.

The U-12 Mixed and U-12 Girls Only categories were run as a festival event with no results recorded or category winners, in keeping with New Zealand Football’s Junior Framework guidelines.

The annual event, organised and run by WaiBOP Football, has existed since the early 1950s when the Weir Rose Bowl trophy was donated by Tom Weir, a prominent member of the Auckland Junior Football Committee. The aim is to provide a structured event for players, coaches and referees in an enjoyable environment that maximises learning opportunities.

All teams play 9 v 9 football, with U-12s playing 50 min games, and the U-13s and U-14s playing 60 mins.

All teams played a minimum of six games across the three days.

For all grades, the weekend is a chance to play teams from outside their region, who they will likely not face in regular season competitions.

The venue, St Peter’s School, provides a limited amount of onsite accommodation and meals for teams that wish to stay onsite.

The referee development programme is a long-standing feature of the Weir Rose Bowl, and 2023 saw the largest-ever contingent of referees and referee coaches attend.

The 22 youth referees from WaiBOP, Northern Region Football (NRF) & Central Football worked closely with 11 coaches over the weekend — including five who have officiated at FIFA events.

Every game had an assigned referee coach, and the group worked together to learn and share over the weekend, including group reflection activities each evening.

This year’s event introduced a #PositiveVibesOnly campaign, with a message of Play Hard. Have Fun. Be Positive.

Pink-clad ambassadors handed out stickers and other giveaways, and signage around the event reinforced the campaign, which was received positively and embraced by many teams over the weekend.

The campaign was modelled on one run by Sport Waikato for a recent Netball Tournament, and aimed to address negative sideline behaviour (parents, supporters and coaches), the behaviour of players towards each other, and aggression towards referees.

Many of the young referees embraced the campaign, understanding that it was aimed at making the weekend a positive experience for them, and showed support with the addition of pink into their outfits.

WaiBOP’s CK Kawana-Waugh, who organises the Referee Development Programme is no stranger to poor sideline behaviour and was positive about the campaign.

“Sadly, it is usually a small few that are a real problem,” he said.

“I think the positive vibes campaign didn’t change the real negative ones but resulted in more positivity and support from people who would usually stay quiet. If we can keep encouraging the positive people to be as vocal as the others it can only be a good thing!”

What the participants said

Responses from a post-event survey conducted by WaiBOP:

“Positive vibes have helped us carry on when we lose and keep our heads up.”

“People’s behaviour on the sideline has been positive.”

“It was good to see all the reminders and it was a theme we pushed with our team, not only to reinforce fair play, but to keep them positive and motivated when the going got tough.”

Interested in becoming a youth referee?

WaiBOP have youth referee academies, mainly based in Hamilton and Tauranga, which provide training and ongoing support and development.

For more information

Waikato based –
BOP based – and

In other regions, please contact your local federation.

Photo gallery

Acknowledgement: Our thanks to WaiBOP Football for the use of the following images from the 2023 tournament:

Rachel Lilburn

Rachel Lilburn is Taupo-based and a keen follower of her son’s progress as a junior player. Her feature articles for Friends of Football have included a profile of New Zealand U-17 men’s captain Dylan Gardiner, a World Cup for over-40s, a guideline to sideline behaviour and how the McCartney Invitational Tournament started.

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