We're really lucky to have a former North West Counties Referee of the Year who frequently gets in touch with the show, and that man Paul O'Brien has got in touch with a view from the middle.
From the pressure of the job, the highs and lows of a refereeing career that ran into three decades and a vision for the future, Paul gives his take on it all in this great little piece.
We thank Paul for taking the time to share this with us and we hope that you enjoy his insight as we have done.
Why would anyone want to referee? You spend 80 minutes being abused by all sections of the community for what? Well the love of the game, that's why. No matter what anyone says the referee does not want to be the centre of attention, far from it. The best referees are never seen. Yes there will be decisions that are unpopular but you are not there to be liked. No matter what we all think referees are not biased. They don't hate your team or have a hidden agenda. They are there to apply the laws of the game and do it in a professional manner.
It's not easy being the referee. The top referees in our sport have put in many hours of training. Refereeing games all over the country and spending their weekends sacrificing time with friends and family to officiate at games.
A referee on a Saturday in the local leagues will referee the game without the help of touch judges, in goal judges or video referee and will still want to perform as if they are refereeing a Super League game. Often this is done whilst being verbally abused or even threatened by fans of these team. It can be very intimidating especially if your there on your own (it's not like this at all clubs but even once is too many). I'm not saying it's easy at the top. The Super League referees are under enormous pressure. With replays and live feed onto big screens every decision is scrutinised and after several views the commentary team and the fans still argue about it. The referee gets a split decision to decide or a call from the touch judge.
Refereeing needs to be invested in lower down the pyramid to help develop the future Super League Referees. Is is starting to happen but has a long way to go. With only a hand full of Super League referees this pool has to be bigger but it can't happen over night. They have to be the best and if they make mistakes they have to be accountable. Unfortunately at the moment this doesn't happen because there is not enough depth at the top.
I started refereeing in 1989 aged 14. I had great support from the Widnes RLRS. Positives during my career was refereeing in Russia as part of a North West Counties Tour and North West Counties Referee of the Year. I only have one low point and that was retiring. But with a young family and a full time job that I do shifts and weekends something had to give and unfortunately it was refereeing.
So next time you're watching a game, take the rose tinted glasses off and remember the referee is not there to cheat or help the other team win. Yes they will make mistakes but at the end of the day if there's no referee there's no game
For more information on becoming a referee visit. http://www.therfl.co.uk/more/match_officials/becoming_a_match_official