I’ve been involved in football almost for as long as I can remember – initially watching my dad playing and then, from about the age of 7 playing competitively myself first for the Cubs, and then for progressive school teams. Once my own son came along, I became involved in coaching his junior football teams and then – when he got to 16 and was thinking about where he wanted to go next with his football, we made a joint, life-changing decision : we both did a referees’ course with the South Wales Football Association. Dan is much fitter than me (naturally enough), and has started his refereeing career at a young enough age to progress to the very top if he wants to. However, no matter how good he gets, and how far he progresses up the ladder, he’ll always have to live with the fact that I got more than him in the end of course exam!
When I tell people that I referee local football to relax on the weekend, the reaction invariably goes something like this : “You must be mad! Why would you want to put yourself through that?” There are lots of horror stories out there about the abuse that referees occasionally suffer at the hands of players or spectators, and of course, such incidents are totally unacceptable. However, they are incredibly rare. And most of the time, refereeing is great fun.
My match this afternoon was a good example. A regional cup game between a Cardiff-based team and one from the Bridgend area. It was played in a fantastic atmosphere – full-blooded, committed but mostly fair, and in what used to be called the Corinthian spirit. The final score was 3-1 and both teams congratulated/commiserated with each other before heading off to the pub for post-match sausage and chips. There are much worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon!