For those who haven't seen and read it yet here is North-East Grassroots match official, Lindsey Robinson's interview for She Kicks magazine.
Lindsey has, in the past few days, been promoted to a Level Four match official (Congratulations from The Spirit of the North) which means she can now referee Wearside League and Northern League Second Division matches as well as running the lines at others.
Questions are by She Kicks magazine -
1. What stage are you at in your refereeing (level & sorts of games you work on)?
I am currently approaching my 4th season as a qualified Referee where I have just been successful in attaining my level 5, Senior County Referee. I officiate in the local Sunday Durham & District Men's League, Durham CFA leagues and assistant Referee in the Men's Northern Supply league Division 2.
2. Do you referee/officiate women’s games?
The FA have produced a Female referee pathway for referee's where you can just officiate within the Female league structures, or the regular pathway through the male route with also the option of both. I have chosen both where I currently officiate within the Durham CFA Women's League and the FA Women's Premier Reserve League.
3. Why and how did you first get into refereeing?
Being honest I was a bit disappointed with the officials that were turning up to the games during my playing career, so I decided to put my money where my mouth was and decided to enrol onto a local course. As part of the course you have to referee six 11-a-side games and luckily enough at that time I was assigned a Mentor, Mark Moore who supported me through my initial stages. During those games I received positive feedback and support from all involved.
4. Did you ever get to or want to play the game?
Living in the North East you cannot escape football, it's in your blood, however opportunities for girls to play in my younger days was very difficult, so apart from playing with my brother and sister in the streets or local park, we did manage to bully a few PE teachers to enter us into school fixtures. I did not start playing competitively till I was 16yrs olds with a club (which you may remember Jen!!) Blyth Spartan's Kestrels who have developed through to Sunderland LFC within the FA National Northern League, as well as playing for Newcastle United WFC in my latter years.
5. Do you wish you had taken up the whistle sooner?
I do sometimes think if I'd taken up the whistle sooner where I'd be now! I attended the course in 2008 and to date I have officiated in over 250 games. If I had attended the course sooner who knows where I'd be right now?
6. What have been the highlights of your refereeing career so far?
There have been many highlights in my short referee career to date, most notably achieving successive promotions the last 2 season from Level 7-5 and hopefully still in with a shout to go up to Level 4. ( I must be doing something right with the Assessors and Club officials markings !!!! ) as well as my first middle appointment to referee a cup final in my Sunday Men's league (resulting in the first female referee to be appointed in the league), my first CFA County cup final middle appointment in 2011 and most recently an assistant referee run out for a charity fixture between Arsenal Ladies FC v Nottingham Forest Ladies FC giving me a taster of places I want to go.
7. How do you keep fit? Do you train alone or with colleagues?
With a full time job it is difficult to keep on top of your fitness but through planning each week as it comes you just have to fit it in. I currently run with a group at work as well as some personal training at my local gym as to progress further up the ladder you must attain certain fitness tests which I am currently awaiting to take which will allow myself to be considered for Level 4.
8. How important/helpful can your local Referee’s Association be to a young official?
The Referee Associations are a key support mechanism for newly qualified officials. The amount of experience and support that is there waiting for you from your very first meeting is fantastic. There are people out there really eager to support you from all angles.
9. Do you study performances of other officials to learn from them?
As referee's we are very supportive of each other and by this its always beneficial when watching your peers and higher levels in real time (not just on the TV). This is very important for when going up the ladder as a Referee we don't have the luxury of camera's around our pitches etc we have to make decisions within a split second and sometimes on our own too. With also Assistant refereeing in higher leagues this allows you to watch higher level officials than yourself regarding roles and responsibilities both on and off the field. From the beginning being allocated a Mentor the support from colleagues & Referee Coaches always ensures a greater learning environment.
10. What’s the best thing about officiating?
I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I do especially with sticking out to improving my initial aim of the standard of officials. I have definitely learnt a lot more about the game from being the person in black through pushing and testing my knowledge and allowing myself to continue to keep on developing.
11. How far do you think you might be able to go in the game/how long will that take?
I have no idea at this current moment as I don’t know how well my colleagues are doing. Each season I set myself goals for number of games and to continue to aspire for promotion. I hope to reach to the highest level possible.
I am currently hosted County Durham Sport as the FA Women, Girls & Disability Football Development Officer in the County Durham area which allows me to work with the local clubs, volunteers and partner to support the game. Through my job I have built up very good relationships with clubs and have experiences from all angles on a match day.
13. Can youth football be quite intimidating to officiate?
Unfortunately youth football can be very intimidating to any official and even more if you are a young referee due to the sideline attendees and not the game themselves. However, through the Respect campaign that has been launched at the grassroots level we are trying to address this behaviour with some good practice examples and the support by all partners the issue is slowly but surely being addressed.
14. Do you have to be thick-skinned?
To be a referee I think you have to have some thick skin when officiating and very broad shoulders. Due to the passion that is involved in our national game it does open you into some very emotional situations therefore it is important to try not to take comments to heart (easier said than done sometimes). I have been very fortunate that the leagues I currently referee within have supported my development and it is now becoming a normal sight seeing a female Referee turning up to their games.
15. What would you say to encourage younger (or older!) women who might be considering or have just started, officiating?
Any body that is thinking or may have not thought about becoming a Referee please do! The current support network is great out there, which on a match day can feel sometimes like a lonely place. We now have each County FA employing a Referee Development Officer - Jeff Russell Durham FA RDO, we also have "pink whistle" group on facebook as well as regional Female Ambassadors around the country. This year we have seen successful FA Regional Female Referee conferences being delivered around the country by the FA National Referee Officer - Janie Frampton and the Regional Ambassadors. We have to remember still that without Referee's our national game will not exist.