It is with great pleasure that Kent FA can confirm that two of our National List Assistant Referees have been rewarded with appointments to the 2021 Papa John’s Trophy Final.
Stuart Butler, pictured far left above has been named Assistant Referee for the showpiece at Wembley Stadium, whilst Stephen Brown (below, right) has been named Reserve Assistant Referee.
This year’s final will be contested between Sunderland and Tranmere Rovers on Sunday 14 March (3pm KO).
In hearing of both appointments, we caught up with both match officials to discuss their journey into officiating. Our first focus is with Reserve Assistant Referee, Stephen Brown.
Having had a successful non-league playing career, which also included a Wembley appearance for Chippenham Town in the FA Vase Final in 2000 (against Kent club, and winners, Deal Town), Steve first spoke about his journey getting into refereeing.
“I qualified as a referee in 2000,” he said. “Funnily enough, I never really had an ambition to become a referee because I had always played football at a good level. It wasn’t until I retired because of injury that my mother-in-law’s partner said, ‘Have you thought about becoming a referee?’
“I decided to do the course in Ashford and started out as a Level 7,” Stephen added. “I always wanted to give something back to football, because the game had been very rewarding to me as a semi-professional player, so becoming a referee became the perfect opportunity. I felt I was able to use my knowledge and experience in the sport to help me through my refereeing career.”
Having been promoted to the National List of Assistant Referees at the beginning of the 2017/18 season at the ripe-age of 43, Steve has gone onto officiate over 80 fixtures on the EFL and is very proud to have been appointed to this fixture;
“It means everything to me,” he admitted. “Anybody who participates in football in some capacity dreams about going to Wembley! When I was lucky enough to be appointed to the National List, my ambition was to try and get an appointment at Wembley. I was very fortunate to play at the old Wembley Stadium in the 2000 FA Vase Final and so to go back to the ‘new’ Wembley as an official in the EFL Trophy Final feels incredible.
“It’ll be a proud moment for me and my family and it proves that hard work does pay off. I don’t think many people can say they have been a player and an official at Wembley in a national competition so, on a personal level, it’s a fantastic achievement.”
Mixing his professional career as a Court Clerk at Canterbury Crown Court with his hobby of officiating, Steve advises many more people to take up the whistle.
“Refereeing can be so rewarding if you put in the hard work and effort,” he said, “and you might also surprise yourself in what you can achieve! You need a strong passion and love of football. After that you need to show dedication, commitment and discipline if you want to pursue a career in refereeing. Be open to advice from colleagues who have lots of experience and be willing to learn as you go along.
“There will be difficult moments in games, especially when you start out, but persevere and show great resilience to come out the other side. Take all the support you can get from family and friends too; most of all, enjoy it!”
In celebrating both appointments, Referee Development Officer Nick Dunn was pleased to share the positive news.
“Having two of our National List Assistant Referees appointed to the same final is a fantastic cause for celebration,” he said. “This is a great appointment for Stuart and Steve, which demonstrates and epitomises both their hard work, ability and dedication to officiating. On behalf of Kent FA, we are very proud of both match officials. This should act as a great advert to those at the grassroots level of the game with their appointments demonstrating what can be achieved.
“We wish Stuart and Steve the very best of luck, and hope the ball runs kindly for them (and their colleagues) on the 14 March 2021.”
For more information on refereeing in Kent, please contact Nick Dunn via email Nick.Dunn@KentFA.com