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Published 15 December 2021 7 min read

‘I absolutely fell in love with refereeing from the first moment’

Written by:

Daniel Bishop

British Army referee Daniel Bishop discusses how he got into officiating, why he loves it so much and how his son is now looking to follow in his footsteps

My name is Daniel Bishop, I am 42 and I was born and bred in Dover, Kent, but now reside in Ash, Surrey. I am a proud member of the British Army where I am a Warrant Officer Class Two within Royal Army Physical Training Corps. I’ve been in the Army since 1996 and still serving today some 25 years later. I’m married to Kelly and I have two sons, aged 16 and 12. 

I have played football throughout my Army career, playing at both unit and corps football. I took up coaching later on in playing days, which included unit, corps, Army U23s and civilian football. I have coached teams within the Combined Counties Football League but found the coaching side of life was taking up a lot of my time, and then Andrew Halliday, who was a Premier League assistant referee for 20 years and was the Army’s most senior referee, convinced me to do the refereeing course in January 2019.

Growing up I moved around a lot with the Army as my father also served so played in various different countries. I was always up against it, shall I say, ability wise so I decided to join the Army. I have always been an extremely fit individual and knew I could carry on playing within the Army. I still play for the Army Crusader Vets when I am not refereeing but I stopped playing competitive adult football at 40.

Since doing the referee course in 2019 it has been an absolute whirlwind. To get from where I was in 2019 to where I am now as a level four referee in under three years has been a rapid rise. I have had so much help from both the Army FA Referees Association and from Andy Bennett, who is my FA Core Referee coach and Football League Assistant Referee.  

I am absolutely football mad and wanted to remain within the game and give something back. Refereeing was an avenue that I had never looked at before and it was only when Andrew Halliday said ‘I think you would be really good at refereeing because of your coaching and playing background and would be something that I think you would pick up quickly’ that I took it up and to be honest with you, I absolutely fell in love with it from the first moment.

Daniel Bishop wishes he had taken up refereeing sooner
Daniel Bishop wishes he had taken up refereeing sooner

I kick myself now because I wonder where I would have got to had I taken it up 20 years ago. But then I understand the game better because of my playing and coaching background so if I did take that out, then I probably wouldn’t have progressed as quickly.

I have not really suffered much on the abuse side of things but then I am someone who is generally thick-skinned and I think it also comes down to my refereeing style. I am a referee who speaks constantly, with comments like ‘hands down’ and ‘not for me’ so there is no hiding place when a decision is given because the players know the reason why I have given a decision. I have seen it when I have gone to watch my kids play and youth football in particular is getting really bad I think. The most worrying thing is it’s not the kids, it’s the coaches and parents who are shouting and screaming at the referee. 

I would ask those involved in football to have a consideration for that individual, they might be under the age of 18 and that individual is taking time out of their day to referee a game so that kids are able to enjoy their football. It is generally the parents and coaches that are ruining it for the kids and referees. 

Everyone is entitled to their opinion but please have an understanding that the person refereeing the game is only human and everyone makes mistakes in all walks of life regardless of profession or hobby. Whilst you are entitled to your opinion, there is no need to shout it 40 to 50 yards across the pitch and try to ridicule someone in front of other people. That leads to other people then thinking it’s acceptable which leads to more people shouting and screaming. 

So respect the individual who is refereeing the game and if you have any questions then go up to the referee after the game and speak to them in a way you would want to be spoken to yourself. As a referee, we don’t shout and scream at players or coaches so the respect should go both ways. 

17 Nov 2021 0:42

Respect the Ref

Every match. Every league. Every championship. It’s the referees who are integral to a smooth-running game.

At youth level, the kids just want to enjoy their football, regardless of whether that decision goes against them or not. Nine times out of ten, the kids don’t care and it is the parents and volunteers who are running the line who complain the most.

In terms of my hopes when it comes to refereeing, considering my age, if I could get to National League, 2a or 2b, then that would be a very good achievement for me. Anything above that would be an absolute bonus, depending on whether I stick with refereeing or go down the assistant referee route. National League would only be two more promotions away for me so I think that would be a realistic target. 

In January the Army FA are running the next Army Referee Observer Course and that is the next step for me. I want to become a Referee Observer so I can give something back, then after that I want to become a senior tutor so I can then help coach the next generation of referees.

Due to my job within the Army, I have always been a big believer in trying to give something back and develop the next generation coming through. So being an observer, it would enable me to help give feedback which would then help them become better referees and the coaching and mentor courses would again enable me to help the next generation of Army referees coming through.

Daniel Bishop wishes he had taken up refereeing sooner
Daniel Bishop wishes he had taken up refereeing sooner

My son is hopefully going on a refereeing course in January. He is 16 and has watched a few of my games and he likes football and thinks he might be able to earn a little bit of pocket money. It would be great if he could take it up and then I could do the parent thing of going along to support and mentor him.

To anyone who is considering taking up refereeing, I would say 100 per cent do it. I should have done it years and years ago. It is more enjoyable than people think. For me it is about going out there and helping these kids and young adults enjoy their Saturday afternoons, Tuesday evenings and Sunday mornings by refereeing a football game.

I always say to the young referees who ask me for advice to enjoy it, embrace it and take it for what it is. Once that game is finished, park it, forget about it and move on to the next one. That is the biggest thing I say to young referees. Don’t dwell on the past. You can’t go back and change it so once that decision has been made, it has been made, whether it was right or wrong. Just roll your sleeves up, get on with it and smile and enjoy it but above all else ensure you learn from it. 

That is the most important thing. If you are not enjoying it then it becomes a chore and if it becomes a chore, you then don’t want to do it. So smile, embrace it and enjoy it.

For me, I am still involved in the sport I love and have grown up with, I go out every Saturday and midweek to try my best. I just absolutely love football and have the best view in the house to watch a game.