These notes are intended to assist in the running of a Conker Championship. The questions of fund-raising, sponsorship, publicity, catering etc. are dependent on the scale of the event and are not dealt with here. Advice on these can be obtained from Ashton Conker Club but they are usually determined by local resources.
Whatever the scale of your event, be it small or ambitious, Ashton Conker Club wishes you the best of fortune. Have a cracking good time.
In running a knock-out competition it is best to start with 16, 32, 64, 128 or 256 etc. players and divide them into four sections: A, B, C and D or colour code them having separate numbers for each colour. At Ashton we use red, yellow, green and blue with pink and white for the ladies competition which we run separately. Each section eventually produces a semi-finalist in the men's competition and a finalist in the ladies. By using either coloured bibs or large coloured labels with prominent numbers, it is easier to identify players, particularly if a commentator is used and also to locate players for the next round.
When large numbers of players are involved it is advisable to run several games at a time, each with two supervising stewards or referees. In recent years we have run eight to ten playing platforms at a time. With 256 men and 90 ladies the finals are reached in three to three and a half hours.
Our games take place on strongly built platforms, raised about 50cm above the ground. The tops measure approx. 2.1 X 1.5 metres. The size of the arena will of course govern the number of platforms.
Recording and procedure
Referees in charge of each game should record the winner and make sure that the information is taken to the recorder. If a number of games are going on at the same time, several recorders will be needed. The recorder will give the information necessary for the next round to proceed.
When there are events for Ladies, Gents and Children, it may be advisable to run the competitions simultaneously. This helps to bring all the events towards a conclusion at the same time. The climax of the day should be the semi-finals and finals of all three competitions followed by presentations and celebrations.
For safety, the playing area is delineated by sturdy barriers or hurdles borrowed from the local agricultural society. Ropes and poles can be used, but again, everything depends on the scale of the event.
A team competition can be organised without too much additional work by incorporating it within the main competition. With four players to a team, one member can be seeded into each of the four sections. Scoring can be achieved by awarding points according to the progress made by the players. E.g. 6 points for a player knocked out in the first round, 5 for the second round etc. The winning team is the one with the lowest total of points. If a tie results, a nominated player for each team can-be used in a play-off.
The Five-Minute Rule
Sometimes a game can become boring and time consuming. For that reason and in order for the whole event to run smoothly, the following rule has been introduced.
When a game has progressed for (approximately) five minutes without a result in sight, the referees call a halt and the conker equivalent of a penalty shoot-out takes place. Players continue, each having three lots of three strikes alternately. The number of hits is recorded and unless a conker is broken the player with the highest score is declared the winner and goes through to the next round.
It is wise to gather conkers about a week before they are needed. Hundreds, and even thousands may be needed so that enough can be graded to provide sufficient of an even shape and size. A 30 -35mm diameter is ideal. All flat and misshapen specimens should be discarded.
Drilling and threading can be laborious and the drilling is best done with an electric drill on a stand about two days before the event. Use an 11/64" drill bit (4mm is near enough).
Sufficient conkers should be threaded for each playing platform or area to have plenty.
The conker should be on the lace with the 'eye' uppermost. The laced conkers are placed in bags with the laces hanging out ready to be drawn by the players. To ensure continuity, 'empty' laces should be returned to a central point for an appointed 'threader' to rethread ready for further games.
Old-fashioned square-cut 3mm leather bootlaces are preferable, as string either frays or breaks or the conker can be driven over the knot. (A conker which does slip over the knot but which remains unbroken can be rethreaded and play can resume).
Spectators like to know what is going on and a commentator with a megaphone or preferably a PA system is very useful. This is also very handy when competitors need to be marshalled for their games. A collecting area for players is useful if there is adequate space. If your event is spread over a large area, collecting players can be quite a task.
At Ashton where there are numerous attractions and stalls etc., and a large car park for four to five thousand spectators, control is aided by the use of short range radios which can be hired quite reasonably. A headquarters or 'command module' such as a caravan is essential to centralise information and cater for any media journalists.
Bigger events need more people not only as organisers and referees, but as helpers in the car park, on the gate, selling draw tickets and for numerous other tasks. Ensure that you have sufficient assistance at hand.
Registration of competitors
Allow sufficient time to make the draw for play. Allow at least a week for this unless you take players as they arrive. Remember that if you do not have numbers in multiples of 8, 16, etc., you will have to work out who gets a bye in the first round --all time consuming and frustrating if you leave it late. At the World Conker Championships all players have to complete and send in an application form at least two weeks before the event. They are then sent registration details such as their section and number. When they arrive on the day they sign in at the registration desk by the 'command module' at least 30 minutes before play starts. We use a computer to do all the work for us but this depends on the expertise of the Competition Secretary!!
On behalf of Ashton Conker Club.