York lecturer selected to referee at Tokyo Paralympics

Robert Avery, a senior lecturer in health sciences at York St John University, has been selected to referee goalball matches at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Goalball is a fast-paced team sport played by people with a visual impairment. Two teams of three players have the objective to score a goal by bowling the ball along the floor into their opponents’ goal.

Robert has been involved with the goalball over a decade after being hooked by the simplicity and inclusivity of the sport. He started working with Goalball UK, the sport’s national governing body, to help develop a sustainable structure to the sport throughout the UK and enable local clubs to form and develop players.

Since gaining his goalball refereeing qualification in 2012, Robert has refereed 80 domestic tournaments. He has also had the opportunity to officiate international competitions across the world, including Belgium, Sweden, Bulgaria, Portugal, Lithuania, The Netherlands and America.

Speaking about going to Tokyo 2020, Robert said:

“I am really proud to be heading to Tokyo next summer to be part of the Paralympics. When I started officiating goalball matches, I couldn’t have imagined that I would be a part of one of the biggest sporting events in the world.

“I have always had an interest in para-sports due to my background in health sciences and the positive impact they can have for participants – not only for the physical health but also the wellbeing benefits. The inclusivity of goalball delivers on both fronts for its players. If you’re visually impaired or sighted, the community is always eager to welcome new people in a variety of capacities.

“To become a goalball referee, the main attributes needed are a good knowledge of the rules and procedures; and the ability to remain composed. The best matches are the ones where no one remembers you were the referee, which is what I will be determined to achieve in Tokyo.”

Steve Cox, operations manager for Goalball UK, said:

“Everyone at Goalball UK is extremely proud of what Robert has achieved. He has become a world-renowned goalball referee and his dedication to the sport is fantastic.

“We are enormously grateful for each volunteer like Robert that supports Goalball UK. Without them, it would be impossible for us to deliver as many opportunities to participate in the sport as we currently do.

“At Goalball UK we are committed to supporting and developing the skills of our volunteers. You don’t need any qualifications to volunteer with us, all we require is dedication and commitment. Whatever your skillset, our inclusive environment allows everyone to get involved.”