WHY would anyone want to be a football referee? Abused, criticised for every decision and accused of favouritism on a weekly basis.
But one young Vale referee spoke to Observer editor Rob George about his hopes to change perceptions and help more men and women kick off a career in the centre circle.
THERE is a significant shortage of people under the age of 21 officiating at football matches across the UK.
But Charlie Banning from Evesham reckons more young people should cross the white line and consider becoming an official to follow in the footsteps of Michael Oliver, Mark Clattenberg and Howard Webb.
The 17-year-old is believed to be one of the youngest referees in the UK but the number of people willing to become the man in the middle is declining.
A number of high profile Football Association, Premier League and ‘Respect’ campaigns have attempted to stem the tide. But Charlie needs no help from his assistants to know he’s made the right decision.
“I first wanted to become a referee because during my final couple of years of children’s football,” he said.
“Some of the decisions made by referees appeared not to be consistent and not right although with hindsight I think the referees were actually better than I thought.
“The standard of refereeing at my local team Cheltenham Town also seemed to vary and so I made the conscious decision to try and raise the bar of local referees,” he added.
Charlie has been refereeing for more than a year now and admitted he couldn’t see himself not being the man in the middle.
“I was very nervous giving my first ever booking but the player accepted he had done wrong and got on with the game,” he said.
“Now after my first season of refereeing I am a level 7 and can’t wait to get more games under my belt.”
“When I booked onto the course I was worried about not knowing anyone but everyone was really friendly and the course leaders were easily approachable.
“A couple of weeks after completing the course my first game came through, I was so nervous.
“The game ended 5-0 and I was so pleased with how I refereed the game.
“Since then I have gone on to referee around 20-30 more games which I have loved as much as playing football.
“An all-time high so far for me has this year was doing my first line at Evesham United u18 with a football league referee in the middle and another experienced assistant.
“I learnt so much just seeing how they handled themselves before and during the game, which has easily been the best moment in my refereeing career so far.
“However there has also been some lows where I have made a bad decision and gone home thinking how can I do that different.
“That is where the Evesham Referees Association came in. I attend the monthly meetings and brought up what I did wrong and there are so many experienced referees offering their advice and support I could now try a different approach.
“I couldn’t recommend becoming a referee highly enough to anyone who loves football not matter what their age,” he added.
E-mail Evesham Referees Association on email@example.com for more information.