How many of us as players or supporters have shouted out “REFEREE!” during a recent game. Football, however, takes on a whole new perspective when you are the referee. Match officials, and particularly referees, are an essential element of any competitive fixture. They ensure that the laws of the game are followed in the interest of both fairness and safety, contributing to a positive football experience for all participants.
According to Essex FA good referees are “confident and decisive, with patience and an ability to communicate in an effective manner, making decisions and explaining to the players what’s happening next, when appropriate. A sense of humour is also a great advantage!”
Lawford’s Child Welfare Officer and former U16s Manager, Jonathan Sly, joined one of the Essex FA courses last year, going on to qualify as a referee. "I can honestly say that this is one of the best things I have ever done. It makes you look at the game from a very different perspective; both teams are important to you, you have a sense of responsibility to them both equally. You really appreciate the laws of the game and why they are there."
As a Club we are keen to support the training and development of new referees. Lawford’s Football Development Officer, Carl White, explains “Over recent years several youth players have qualified as referees, with the Club helping fund course costs and providing development opportunities.”
George Lowe, Referee Development Officer at Essex FA, plays an important role co-ordinating referee training in our area. George writes “Our courses are open to learners or all ages, genders and backgrounds with people wanting to get involved to earn a little extra pocket money or because they want to follow the promotion pathway with the long term aim of refereeing being a career.”
The County offer further support through its mentoring system. According to George, “once completing the course, we provide matchday support in the form of Referee Mentors to guide new referees through the first 5 games of their referee journey. The mentor will be there to provide a friendly face on the touchline as well as provide advice on how to develop and improve as a referee.”
We asked Jonathan if there was any downside to becoming a qualified referee “Well, my friends who sit with me at Colchester United or during a game on the telly are claiming that I have become boring now as I always defend the referee and their decision making whereas in the past I might have been a little more 'critical'."
Jonathan finishes our conversion by summing up the benefit of seeing the game from a new viewpoint "Having played, coached and now refereed I can proudly claim to have done the 'holy trinity' of football. I would recommend refereeing to all who love the game; young, old and those in-between. It keeps you mentally sharp, physically fit and develops your skills in decision making, mediating and communicating."