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Whistle blower: A day in the life of a Suffolk football referee

PUBLISHED: 16:44 23 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:12 20 February 2013

Whistle blower: A day in the life of a Suffolk football referee

Whistle blower: A day in the life of a Suffolk football referee

Suffolk FA's Referee Development Officer, Phil Knight, has been refereeing for almost ten years and takes charge of games in the Ryman League as well as acting as assistant referee in the Football League

Suffolk FAs Referee Development Officer, Phil Knight, has been refereeing for almost ten years and takes charge of games in the Ryman League as well as acting as assistant referee in the Football League

As Referee Development Officer, my role encompasses the recruitment, training and retention of the countys football referees. With over 500 officials currently active, I am dependent on the assistance of a wide volunteer workforce of assessors, mentors and coaches whose ongoing development also falls within my remit. Whilst I am based at the Suffolk FA headquarters in Stowmarket, I spend a great deal of my time working with clubs, schools and local branches of the Referees Association.
My day starts at Chantry High School in Ipswich where I am taking a year 10 class through the Basic Referee Course. The lesson starts with a lengthy discussion on incidents the pupils have seen on the television over the weekend. Missed penalties, the constant berating of referees and the odd contentious offside call result in some vocal differences of opinion but create an enthusiastic debate. The course at Chantry will last eight weeks and whilst it is unlikely that all of the pupils will go on to become referees, I am sure that a greater understanding of the laws of the game will benefit them in the futures as spectators, players and coaches.

"Despite what many clubs and players may think, referees have to work hard to gain promotion"

Once the bell brings the lesson to an end I make my way back to the office for a review meeting with Trevor Pollard, head coach at the Ipswich Town FC Referees Academy. Working in partnership with Ipswich Town FC, the Academy provides an excellent environment for young referees to develop their officiating skills; free to make their mistakes without open criticism from the pitch or the touchline. Trevor and his team of coaches have enjoyed real success over the past four years, producing a number of referees who have already broken into the national system and have the potential to progress even further. We discuss the round of games played yesterday against Histon, identifying those referees who are ready to move up a year group and those who might need more support in the next set of games.
After a quick lunch and a peep at the BBC website sports page to catch up on the latest football news, I attend to the numerous assessments that have arrived in my in-box over the 48 hours. There are almost 70 referees seeking promotion this season so most weekends we will have at least a dozen games assessed.
Despite what many clubs and players may think, referees have to work hard to gain promotion, attending a number of in-service training sessions and being assessed by a more experienced official on at least three games. I am sent a copy of all the assessments and read them carefully, providing my own feedback to the relevant referee in preparation for their next game.
I also take the opportunity to read through reports made by my team of mentors, who go out to support new trainee referees. Since July we have recruited and trained over 80 referees and to make their first couple of games as comfortable as possible, we provide them with an experienced referee to act as a mentor.
Although they will provide some very basic feedback, the real purpose of the mentor is to be a shoulder to cry on (should they need it). We had six new referees out working this weekend and from the reports I have read through they have all done well. This is very encouraging news at a time when we are desperately trying to improve the number of new referees in the game.
A hurried lunch in the office, (catching the final, thrilling moments of Deal or No Deal) is followed by a two-hour presentation to the Bury St Edmunds Basic Referee Course. There are 12 candidates on the course, each of whom has attended on Monday evening for the past eight weeks. With the final examination just a matter of weeks away, the tension amongst the group is increasing and I know they will all be mightily relieved when they have got the course out of the way and can get out on to the pitch to put their new found skills into action.
Tonight we went through Law Eleven (otherwise known as Offside). Despite my best efforts to make the subject interesting and participative, there is only so much you can do to try and make a presentation on the offside law pithy and entertaining!
As the last one to leave the office, my final task of the day is to close and lock Bill Steward House. For 125 years, the team at Suffolk FA has worked tirelessly to develop football in the county. I hope that I have played my own part today.


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