BILL EATON'S INSIGHT INTO REFEREEING IN 'TALES FROM THE DARK SIDE': Experience so crucial for the man in the middle

Bill Eaton

Bill Eaton

First published in Sport

BILL Eaton continues to provide a flavour of life as a football referee.

This week he gets up-and-coming official Matthew Scholes to talk about his progress through the ranks.

I BEGAN refereeing in January 2007; my first season I refereed local youngsters in nine-a-side games and quickly learned how to manage the players and deal with parents and coaches, which was trying at times.

I soon started to build my confidence and enjoyed the different challenges I encountered. In the season 2007/2008 I registered in the Bolton, Bury and District Junior football League. As I wanted to progress my career I joined Bolton Referees’ Society which enabled me to meet experienced and other young referees. This has been invaluable for me and I am now an executive committee member.

In April 2008, I was appointed assistant referee for my first cup final in the Lancashire FA U15s Youth Cup. It was a great experience, especially at the age of 16. I thrived off the banter from the crowd over my decisions for offsides and free kicks and I felt this was the beginning of my career.

In 2009 I was appointed assistant referee at a Bolton Wanderers legends match prior to Jussi Jaaskelainen’s testimonial at the Reebok Stadium and my claim to fame was giving Frank Worthington offside twice in the match.

I can tell you he wasn’t too happy with me and he told me so. He did laugh and shake my hand at the end though. In 2010 I was promoted to Level Six. I was 18, in my second year at open-age football and this proved to be the turning point in my refereeing career. My first match of the season in the West Lancashire Football League was a derby game with two rival teams who had past history of conflict. I was also being assessed on my performance. At the end of the game after several yellow cards and one sending off, the assessor informed me that this very difficult game would either make or break me. I picked myself up, dusted myself off and carried on refereeing. This experience taught me how strong and thick-skinned you have to be to referee and always stand by the decisions you make. I am now a Level Four referee in my second year enjoying games in the Northern Premier League, Northern Premier Division One North, North West Counties and West Lancashire Leagues.

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