A New Chapter
Eighteen months ago I lost my dream job as a professional football referee due my own regrettable, naive and stupid actions. I am delighted however that I have been given the opportunity to return to referee in the professional game in England
The public response to my story was incredibly humbling. I never sought sympathy my actions nor for the resulting decision taken by my previous employers and that was not the purpose of the post, it was purely to help myself to move forward mentally. The messages I received from people I don’t know who used that platform to share their own stories with me were incredible. I found myself in tears reading them because it was clear that many of these messages were done with the same intention as my own, to help themselves mentally move on from a difficult period of their own lives and to just talk about it.
I have learned so much about myself over the last 18 months but I have also found out just how important friends and family are in the darkest times. Their love and support has been unwavering, especially that of my mum, brother and my incredible partner Jenny and her family and that has undoubtedly helped me through that period.
Following recent discussions it was made clear that the door was potentially open to a return to referee in English professional football. This came at a time when, for private family reasons, the discussion to move back to England on a permanent basis together was very much on the table with my partner and myself. Those details I won’t go into but it has been a main source of my personal struggles since my move to Norway.
At this point I would like to take the time to say a huge thank you to the Norges Fotballforbund (Norwegian FA) and in particular Terje Hauge. When I moved here I was welcomed with open arms by the NFF and the new friends and colleagues I have met in this amazing country I hope will remain friends for life. The support of Martin Hayes at NFF Oslo and of my referee colleague and friend Morten Andersen-Gott has helped me so much psychologically and again I can’t thank those guys enough. Being able to continue refereeing was the one thing that I was able to keep as a constant from my life back in England and helped me to retain a sense of identity. Being on the pitch again allowed me to remove myself from my own personal struggles and it was a release from the day to day issues I was facing personally. Refereeing in the lower divisions actually allowed me to just fall in love with refereeing all over again as the hobby that it initially was. I cannot speak highly enough of the NFF and as I said, Terje Hauge in particular. Terje is the referee manager for the top officials in Norway and through superb communication and support I made a fairly smooth transition into officiating in Norway. I’ve loved working with the young referees here and hopefully I’ve passed on some experience that may help them in their own careers. It is with a sad heart that I leave this behind but thank you all for everything you have done for me.
And so to pasteurs new...or old I suppose. I’ve been away from the Premier League for what will be two years come the new season so a return to that level was never a possibility. With the introduction of VAR and the many hours of training missed it would not have been reasonable to expect that.
I was offered, and accepted, the opportunity to start next season as a National List Referee. This group of referees officiate on League 1 and League 2. Like any referee I have the desire to perform at my best and to achieve the best I can. I know how hard that road is to referee at the top but I have the desire and passion to work hard to achieve my potential whatever that may be. I still have dreams that I thought were dead but for me they are now very much alive.
For the remainder of this season I will be officiating games lower down the pyramid which will help me to reintegrate into the English game. I have agreed to attend an FA discrimination workshop and I understand that whilst I have lived with disability throughout my life, further knowledge, education and understanding in what is an incredibly important aspect of society can only serve as a positive thing.
I have never tried to excuse my actions of 2018. I have never looked to blame anyone but myself but I am also proud that I retained my own dignity and did not use the media to try to take down anybody else or to sell juicy gossip to the tabloid media. I am not proud of my actions in 2018 and I have learned from this and feel I am a better and stronger person for it. PGMOL dealt with what they considered a discriminatory act in the strongest way. There can be no criticism for that and I have never sought to do anything other than respect the decision and to learn from it as a person. I can only thank them for having the ability to forgive, recognise that one naive moment does not define a person and offer me a second chance to do what I love to do.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to reach out over the last month and to offer their support. It was touching that people chose to do that and these are things I’ll never forget. They helped more than you could ever know.
I now simply go back to being that “(you fill in the blank) in the black” on a weekly basis. Hopefully if nothing else people have been able to see that referees are just normal people with normal emotions, families and feelings. Abuse can lead to mental health issues and referees are not immune to that, especially outside the professional game. Please consider that before you post anything to social media in future or when you stand at the side of a junior game and scream at the 15 year old referee who has just started out and will make mistakes. If my story can help just one person to not send or post something stupid that could potentially end their career then please learn from my mistake. Before posting anything just ask yourself the question “what if this ended up on my bosses desk?” If the outcome wouldn’t be great then don’t send it. Don’t risk everything for a poor joke.
Thank you again, I’m sorry that my actions fell way below the professional standard expected of me but having the chance to redeem myself is an opportunity, journey and challenge that I am looking forward to taking.