The Worlds: Draw Me a Picture

July 21, 2009 on 5:58 pm by Michael Grey | In Pipe Bands, Whinges | 7 Comments

Another RSPBA head scratcher: how is it that the event at the World Pipe Band Championships that has the fewest entries (outside of the grade 4s) has a “qualifier”?

The “qualifier”, of course, meaning the requirement for bands who haven’t played on the Scottish circuit to play their way in, or “qualify”, to have a shot at the real championship. I remind you that to play your way in to the final, or the real championship, means that should a band “qualify”, their instruments, collective mindset, overall physical readiness – their competitive edge – is seriously dulled, if not lost.

Check out the 2009 order of play, or “draws“, for the event: grade 3B: 27 entries and no qualifier; all bands play for the trophy. Same thing does for grade 3A with 29 bands and grade 2 with 26 bands in the contest.

And grade 1? The premier event. The event that pronounces the true pipe band champion of the world. With 23 bands. Yes – twenty-three bands. Well, there’s a “qualifier”.

The grade 1 event is the one event where there is the deepest international participation: 14 of the 23 bands come from outside of Scotland. That’s over 60% of the bands entered. The bands have violated every green guideline on the planet and together have travelled something like 240,000 kilometres to have a shot at the championship. Yet, the contest has a “qualifier”.

I just don’t get it.

I’ll think the best and assume there is fair and equitable reason for this qualifying approach, one that befits a competition that is fair and equitable.

But, I say again. I don’t get it.

Can someone draw me a picture?



  1. On the surface, the RSPBA would likely argue that the Grade 1 Worlds is two performances, whereas other grades are one performance, with shorter time frames. However, their approach to other aspects of the contest [number of judges, international judges, conflict of interest, allocation of bus passes, recording and performing rights to the music] would lead one to believe that maybe the qualifying system is geared toward keeping more Scottish bands in the final? All the bands are there anyway, it would not be hard to run the MSRs in the morning, and the medleys in the afternoon, or to run them at the same time, and let the BBC and the punters decide which to watch.

    Comment by iainmacd — July 22, 2009 #

  2. I couldn’t agree more. I took a Novice Juvenile band over for the Worlds last year and had to suffer through the MAP tunes qualifier. It can be argued that in Novice the MAP qualifier may be useful, but it’s still a bother. In Grade 1? I hardly think it’s useful. Top grade bands raising tens of thousands of dollars to travel across the world to play an MSR? Yes, I’d like to see a good explanation of it as well.

    Comment by KevinAuld — July 23, 2009 #

  3. Iain: the argument might be made – but makes no sense if, first and foremost, the organization is looking out for their member bands (forget the likes of non-Scots for a second) and trying to make the most fair conditions possible for a competition.

    Kevin – sorry to hear of your experience. I am not a fan of the MAP thing, fwiw. M.

    Comment by mike — July 23, 2009 #

  4. I sometimes wonder if “looking out for their members” means ensuring that the Worlds ISN’T a level playing field. What else could explain the pre-qualifying rules?

    Comment by iainmacd — July 24, 2009 #

  5. Iain Machiavelli! M.

    Comment by mike — July 24, 2009 #

  6. It’s quite simple. It’s not the bands that are being qualified, its the judges! And once they’re qualified they get to judge the finals. Unless they’re from outside Scotland…

    Comment by Robert Wilson — July 26, 2009 #

  7. Well, everyone has a point of view. Cheers, Robert.


    PS. Loved your last album:

    Comment by mike — July 26, 2009 #

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