BILL EATON'S REFEREE COLUMN - This is my story of how I got into refereeing

BILL Eaton has put away his writer’s quill for a couple of weeks but up-and-coming referee Arran Hodgkinson talks about his experiences in a three-part series. This week, he delves into how he got into the black shirt. HAVE you lost your mind, you might ask?

Or you don’t know what you’re letting yourself in for was the response when I said I wanted to become a referee.

Yes, I heard all of those comments when I signed up for training in my field of work. The role I play is one of the most stressful, controversial and widely criticised jobs in the world. The start to the process is simple, but many people do not understand it.

You apply to attend a basic referees course at a selected venue that your local FA are running and you do 14 hours of training over two days.

It consists of practical and theory-based lessons and then at the end of the second day you do an exam. The course is run by registered referee tutors and if you pass, you have provisionally qualified to become a referee.

You still must referee six 11-a-side football matches and record the details of the matches and then send them back to your parenting county FA so they can verify this and certify it happened.

When I speak to a lot of older referees they say how they wished they had started refereeing when they were younger.

The main advantage would be that you have a lot more time to progress, and achieve at a higher level should you stick to it. Now you’ll be asking: Why Arran did I decide to take up refereeing and cut short my playing days?

I finished playing football at 13 because I was lazy, not the best footballer and didn’t have the motivation to play in a football team.

So I was watching a match on the TV when I was 14 and my attention was diverted to comments by the commentators about the referee.

They were discussing his performance as they usually do, despite not knowing the laws themselves! I sat for a moment and thought – I wonder what it would be like to referee a Premier League match?

Then I thought, I wonder what it would be like to be a referee? My dad urged me to sign up for the basic referee course, and I did.

A few months later, I found myself sitting in the main suite at the Lancashire FA’s HQ in Leyland, and here I am now – a qualified match official.

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