The Goal

The Goal

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Thoughts on the role of the Wing Officer

This year, for the first time ever, I received in my squadding a special duty as a Wing Officer. I will admit under no duress whatsoever that I was rather pleased at this, as I have always rather naively perceived it as being one of the marks of elderhood on Bisley common. I had remarked as such to my friend HP shortly before the start of my stint during the first stage of the St. George's, and was overheard by well-known rifle shot and bon viveur DFPR.

Wing Officer on duty. Has power over the very fabric of space and time.
Our conversation went something like this:

"Is it your first ever time as a Wing Officer?"

"Yes! I'm rather looking forward to it. I get to wander around the range chatting to my friends for an hour or two and watch some shooting."

"Well there is that, but you know that you could have to completely ruin someone's holiday?"

I did not give this comment the serious consideration it was due and replied rather flippantly "Yes, so don't give me any of your crap R_______!"

Once I had excused my crass attempt at humour, we went on to discuss the very real possibility that I might have to make a ruling which could remove a significant number of points from a shooter's score. The most immediate situation I could think of was when a shooter had been unreasonably given a miss when they had previously been shooting bullseyes and no obvious cross shot had been observed; something which has happened to me on several occasions over the years, and which also happened to one competitor three times during the 2017 Imperial Meeting. Almost inevitably, the competitor is going to ask that the Wing Officer gets involved and, because of the rules regarding additional shots being awarded, it is also extremely common that the Chief Range Officer is asked to make a ruling.

DFPR's point went far beyond mere interpretation of the rules though, he remarked "Anyone can tell you what the rules are. The role requires experience and a deep sympathy for the shooter.*"

While I am in sympathy with the first statement but do not completely agree with it, I wholeheartedly endorse the second. In contrast to the bondage and discipline nature of the ISSF rulebook, which attempts to legislate every situation and aspect of the conduct of shooting, the philosophy underpinning the rules of fullbore rifle relies on the spirit of sportsmanship and good competition; an approach which necessitates interpretation of the rules by the Competitor Range Officer, Wing Officer and Chief Range Officer. In order for informed rulings to be made, the hierarchy need to know the rules; however for reasonable and just decisions to be made they also need to be enlightened by a sense of empathy and justice.

* A philosophy completely ignored by the Committee of Appeal at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, but that's a story for another day.

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