BILL Eaton has handed over his column to up-and-coming referee Aran Hodgkinson, who talks about his experiences as an official in a three-part series. In the final part he recalls when he landed a cup final.


I HAD grown in confidence after my first match so much when I got a message from Bill (Eaton) telling me to check the league website.

In the “Cup Final appointments” section – I was to be in charge of the Under-14s Players Cup.

It was by far the best feeling I had felt in a long time. It was being played at Bolton Wandererstraining ground, and, of course, we had to turn up suited and booted.

Eventually we got round to refereeing but not before I had made sure I looked good.

I had two assistants who were part of my team that day and all three of us thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

My family came to watch which made me even more proud. The final itself was a brilliant game, which eventually went to extra time and penalties – what a way to referee your first final!

There was a huge support for the game, which made that moment even more special.

The atmosphere was lifted from the first blast of the whistle and didn’t stop until the final penalty was taken.

I was repeatedly outran by many of the players, but, in my defence, if I had attempted to run faster than them I would have been too involved in play and my positioning would have been poor.

But I always remember one motto; ‘You must be fit to referee, not referee to be fit’. This is 100 per cent true. You shouldn’t referee because it gets you out of the house and gives you some exercise; you train and work hard to referee.

I always say if you’re not 100 per cent fit and capable, you don’t deserve to referee a game of football. The players should get 100 per cent off you as a referee, they are entitled to 100 per cent effort for the full duration of the match and if you can’t give them that, you can’t referee.

At the moment I train constantly, at the gym, on my own and with friends. I try to eat a balanced diet and keep myself healthy, because part of refereeing is ensuring you lead a healthy and fit lifestyle so that you can officiate to the best of your ability.

Now I am 17 years old, and four years on from when I started refereeing, I am much much wiser.

I am always still learning.

However, I strive to find ways of improving my game and techniques that I can use that will better my refereeing even more.

I have learned some extremely important things that I can implement into my refereeing and my everyday life.