Meet Mike Donnelly, a Commodity Broker and level 5 referee from Kent. Mike started his refereeing career six years ago having qualified in 2015. But why did he get into refereeing in the first place?
“I simply love football. I had reffed a few games ad hoc so thought I should do the referee course. Once I did that, I was hooked. It is also important for me to support local football so what better way than to become a referee? I challenged myself to learn and develop as a match official and, I have never looked back.”
With a full-time job, it must be difficult to find the time to referee on top of normal life. So how does Mike balance it all?
“I am very fortunate and grateful to work for a company that allows me to get away early for mid-week games if required. Thankfully, weekends are straightforward.”
Sadly, like many referees, Mike has faced challenges whilst refereeing, but he has found ways to overcome these challenges so that it doesn’t affect his decision making on the pitch.
“Some venues have very vocal crowds, and their comments can be quite scathing. I have learnt how to block them out and not let them affect my decision making. I like to think I have good people skills. In my work life, I sometimes have to solve disputes between counterparties. The same can be used on a football field. I have a good empathy with players, having played the game and coached before turning to the proper side. Being calm in difficult situations helps. It is only a game after all.”
Mike has enjoyed many highlights in his football career. As a coach, he enjoyed seeing the boys progress and win their U16 league. Then as a referee, being on the SCEFL supply panel and Assistant Referee on SCEFL Challenge Cup Final.
So, what advice would Mike give for anyone wishing to become a referee?
“Take the development opportunities that are available to you - workshops, training sessions etc. Join a referee branch. There are some fantastic learning opportunities available if you put yourself out there. Smile!”