‘If I could roll back the years then I would have started refereeing sooner’
My name is Jay Hall and I am 36 years old and from near Swansea in Wales. I joined the RAF when I was 17 so have travelled around a bit and now I am residing in Northwood in Middlesex. I am an ICT technician in the RAF and I have two kids, a 13-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter.
I grew up playing football and was in Swansea City’s academy until I was about 16 and even got about 12 international caps for Wales between the age of 14 and 16. Around that time fully-fledged academies were not really a thing, it was more a YTS scheme, and a couple of other players were offered it so then I dropped out and was milling around non-league football in Wales for a bit before I then joined the RAF and played a bit there as well.
I had kids and started coaching my son’s team and they had a shortage of referees so I thought I would give it a go. I did the course in 2017, really enjoyed it and have stuck to it since. My son started playing in 2011 and I refereed the odd five-a-side game and after getting involved with the club because of coaching my son’s team, they asked if I wanted to start refereeing some of the older teams and I got involved with it then. I just thought why not do the course and if I enjoy it, see how I get on. I didn’t think about doing it full time, it was more of a hobby really.
Playing the game definitely helps a lot because I have empathy for the players. I am also pretty fit so I can get around the park and I try to keep up with the play, which also helps. I really enjoy it. You do get some stick sometimes from people on the touchline but if you can get past that, then it is a good thing to get into. I don’t do it for money but for those younger referees coming through, it is a good chance to earn a bit of pocket money as well.
At the moment I referee in Step 5 in the Combined Counties and I am on the promotion scheme this year so hopefully I might get my level four, so you will then not be led by your county FA, you are controlled by the FA and they put you on games like the FA Cup, FA Youth Cup and things like that.
I am someone who if I am going to do something then I want to do it properly so I have not gone into it half-hearted. I have played and coached at a decent level so I am going to see how far I can push it. Obviously I joined refereeing quite late and if I could roll back the years then I would have started refereeing sooner and I would have been further ahead with it than I am now.
I take it season by season, I am doing well so far and I have received good feedback from the clubs and the observations so let’s see how far I can go. There will be a ceiling to it at some point and I will probably realise that when I am having bad games week in, week out!
I think my highlights so far have been at the end of the seasons when you get appointed to the big games like the cup finals. I am in the RAF and every year we have the Inter Services Championships with the Army, Navy and the RAF competing so getting on those games is good. There are also games which are at the bigger venues and grounds which are always nice, being in that professional environment. The best ground so far has probably been Watford FC’s Vicarage Road Stadium which was for a charity game I refereed.
When people ask my why I referee, I guess it is good for your health firstly, running around and keeping fit but for me just being involved in football. Being in the RAF I have travelled the world and everywhere I have gone I have played football and instantly I have gained a group of friends, so if I can still be a part of that experience and facilitating football for thousands of people week in, week out, then it is a good thing to do. Sport in general is underestimated in what it brings people I think.
There is an abuse element obviously as a referee. It varies from week in, week out. You obviously have managers and players who will make comments to you to try to put pressure on you and influence decisions but youth football seems to be the worst, with the parents.
At a game a couple of weeks ago I gave a penalty and was just setting up the penalty and I turned around and there was a guy there who was in my face - one of the parents screaming and shouting in my face. That was probably the worst incident I have had but I just fronted up and said ‘look mate, remove yourself from the pitch’ but if it was a younger referee or someone not as experienced then you wonder what could have happened.
Sometimes people need to realise that we are all kind of like volunteers. Yes you get a match fee but we are not doing it for the money or to get shouted at. We are trying to facilitate a game of football. We are only humans, people do get decisions wrong but on the whole referees do try to give their best performances week in and week out.
Football players make loads and loads of mistakes in a game and they don’t get screamed at. The referee can make one mistake and he gets dog’s abuse from everybody. He hasn’t purposely gone out to make a mistake and people need to leave them to referee the game and just enjoy being part of football.
But even in saying that, if there is anyone thinking of getting into refereeing I would say go for it. If you wait too long to take the plunge then you regret waiting too long to do it. There are loads of benefits and every week I am meeting loads of new people out refereeing. I would definitely recommend it to people.