TWO months ago the Observer took a look at the role of referees in Hyndburn and explored the issue of the shortage of qualified officials at grassroots level. Jonathan Twigg, 19, is a qualified referee in the Accrington and District JFL and he gives his insight into the enjoyment referees can get from the sport every week, not just the 90 minute game.
CLUELESS! Blind! Cheat! With so many negative connotations linked to refereeing, most people are put off with the thought of becoming a qualified official.
However one word that people don’t often associate with being a referee is ‘enjoyment’ and, for me, refereeing is a job I enjoy.
Those in black are essential and play an important role in the game.
With football being one of the world’s most popular sports and with the growing interest - particularly from women and children - the need for referees is on the increase.
After regularly playing and watching football since I was young, I decided to take up refereeing because several of my friends were referees in the local leagues and were making money doing something which they enjoyed.
I registered with the Lancashire FA and attended a basic referee’s course.
The training then puts theory into practice and, after passing the course, the qualification gained allows you to take charge of local amateur football.
For most youngsters, football is their life and they have dreams of making it as a professional and playing at the top flight.
But with so many talented players failing to make the cut, their love for the game often dies out and they lose touch with the sport completely.
But they don’t need to.
Many people do not think, when there playing days are over, about becoming an official.
This is a shame as it is estimated that in areas of the UK, 20 per cent of games played are not officiated by a qualified match referee.
And it is a great profession to get into.
Not only can you earn a bit of money from it but it can have a number of positive impacts on a person’s life although it is up to the individual how far they want to push themselves and succeed.
Being the man in the middle requires you to talk to number of people - including all the players, managers and spectators.
This impacts positively on your communication skills, making you a more approachable person.
As referees have to be mentally strong, you cannot lose your head when you’re on the pitch and this develops inner strength and both your concentration and confidence levels improve.
Football is a challenge for everyone out on the field and for referees this is certainly no exception.
Although I was nervous before games, especially in my first season, I had to be sure that I was fit to do a good job and meet the challenge in front of me.
No matter how many times you have refereed games, you never know what you will be faced with and this is where the excitement and the buzz of the job come into play.
Being involved in a winner-takes-all game or a relegation dogfight is often a privilege and, despite the tough times referees can endure while being out on the pitch, there are so many positive steps being put into place to ensure referees are protected.
I hope that by raising awareness of the effects refereeing can have on your life it will encourage more people, especially youngsters, to give it a go.
ANYONE wanting information about refereeing and the Lancashire FA contact 01772 624000.