iCanRef: Andy Madley
So Andy, tell us about how and why you got involved in Refereeing?
I got into Refereeing purely by accident! Both Bobby and I played at a decent level as kids. I had been playing for Huddersfield Town School of Excellence as it was then, whilst Bobby was at Barnsley. We both got injured around the same time and started to not enjoy our Football. One night, Bobby rang me saying ‘Andy, I’ve seen this course, do you fancy it?’ I asked what it was and he replied ‘Refereeing!’ I answered ‘Nope!!’ and hung up! Long story short, I ended up going along to Altofts Cricket Club and completing the course instructed by Graham Rowett and Pete Oldroyd, starting out on the Wakefield Saturday and Sunday Leagues. I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy it to begin with, but it was a great way to pay my way through University! Interestingly, my first ever game as a qualified Referee, I ref’d Oli Johnson, 11 at the time, who would go on to play for Stockport County and Norwich City in the EFL.
How does it feel to now call yourself a Premier League Referee?
To be able to call myself a ‘Premier League Referee’ makes me feel very honoured. Ultimately, I do the same job as the other 29,982 Referees. The laws don’t change, the pitch dimensions are the same and I am armed with the same whistle as everyone else. I just happen to be able to apply my love of Refereeing at bigger stadiums with larger attendances and with some of the best players in the world. Make no mistake, Refereeing in the Premier League is no more challenging than Refereeing in the Wakefield Premier Division. If anything, its easier! I now have Goal Line Technology and VAR to assist me.
What do you enjoy about Refereeing?
Speak to a non-Referee who asks ‘why do you do it?’ every Referee will reply ‘why would you not?!’ When you first start out it’s a great way to stay involved in football when perhaps the body (or ability (lack of) won’t allow. It keeps you involved in the game, it keeps you fit and you enjoy the social aspect of it. Moving up the ranks I started to enjoy other aspects. Being part of a team trying to achieve the same goals, the sounds and smells of the changing rooms and stadiums filling up, the anticipation of the buzz that walking out with the match ball brings. You learn to cope with the pressures upon you and turn them into a motivational tool to help you succeed.
I am now in the fortunate position where I can call Refereeing my Profession. I gave up teaching 3 years ago to Referee full time on the Championship. It allowed me to focus fully on the demands which Refereeing in the Professional game brings. Not only could I prepare fully for my game at the weekend both physically, through training, and mentally, through working on team formations, styles and personalities. It also allowed me to recover properly from training and games. No longer would I have to Referee a game in Plymouth on a Tuesday night, arrive back home at 4am and be in work for 8am followed by training again that day. I am now at leisure to get home at such times, get up when I want, go to the gym for a steady swim or cycle and a sports massage and eat the right foods to prepare my body for the next training session or game. Refereeing gets into your blood.
What are your greatest achievements in Refereeing and why?
I have been fortunate enough to achieve so much through football. Sometimes through sheer hard work and dedication – other times through good fortune! I was ‘lucky’ enough to Referee the League 1 Play Off Final at Wembley Stadium between Swindon Town and Preston North End with Mark Haywood as my 4th official. Normally, to Referee the League 1 Final, you must finish 1st on the National List Merit table. That year I finished 3rd but with Simon Hooper and Graham Scott finishing 1st and 2nd, it was left to me to Referee it as they are both Swindon Town fans! That said, I earned the right to Referee the same Final this year when I returned to Wembley to Referee Charlton Athletic v Sunderland in front of 86,000 spectators. I have run the line and Refereed both FA Finals (Vase and Trophy). Since being promoted to Select Group 1, I have been to Thessaloniki in Greece for a Europa League game, Ajax in the Champions League and I’m going to either Norway or Slovenia for a Champions League Play Off at the end of the month.
What are your goals in the sport?
Being on the Premier League at the pinnacle of my domestic career does not prevent me from having similar goals and targets as a level 7 just starting or a level 4/3 looking to progress into the semi and professional game. I still want Cup Finals, the big league games and further promotions. For me, I have to first of all establish myself as a trusted and able Official to Referee at this level. Once I have made some way towards this I would then set my sights on Refereeing some of the ‘big’ games. Top 6 v top 6 would be an example of this. I would of course like to be in a position to be nominated for FIFA meaning I can wear the white badge and Referee internationally, but I guess, like everyone else, my ultimate goal, certainly domestically, would be to Referee the FA Cup Final. Having watched it for many years from being a small child to the present, it remains the one fixture to create magic by simply putting the words ‘Wembley Stadium’ and ‘FA Cup Final’ in the same sentence. To play a part in that would genuinely be a dream come true!
What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in the game?
Anyone who enters Rrefereeing for a quiet time or for an easy ride is sadly mistaken! True, the good times far outweigh the bad times, but its dealing with the hard parts of the job which can set you out from the crowd. The game of football isn’t just a physical game, its psychological too. Speak to a striker who has gone 5 games without scoring and they will tell you it gets more and more difficult to not only score, but to cope with the pressures of not performing. It’s usually due to a dip in confidence. Refereeing is no different. It is all about confidence. Go on a run of 3-4 games which go well and you start to see the ball like a beach ball. You can’t get 50/50’s wrong if you tried. However, get 2-3 decisions wrong in the space of 10 minutes and that beachball deflates to the size of a ping-pong ball. Confidence goes and it becomes a downward spiral of self-doubt. One of the biggest obstacles I faced was trusting my gut and not worrying about how it may be perceived. We spend countless hours with Sports Psychologists to help us create a mental toughness. I have now become very resilient which, when you Referee in the Premier League, you need to have as a tool!
Who’s had the biggest influence in your Refereeing career and why?
I have been so fortunate at almost every step of my career. Had I started 2-3 years earlier, I don’t think I would be where I am now. There simply wasn’t the support and structure which is now offered. I started at a time when my County FA were investing time and money into developing new and younger Referees. From John Byrne and David Fuller at Heavy Woollen to Chris Spurr in the Wakefield League who first showed me how to run the line! Moving up through the ranks I would have to say I had fantastic support from Steve Rhodes and John Jones at the FA and Alan Wiley and Gary Willard as my coach for the last 3 years. In terms of development and showing the trust in me to give me the Derby v Forest and Birmingham v Aston Villa games, David Allison at the Football League was truly amazing. I guess I would have to say Bobby played a little part in there too! He obviously encouraged me to do the course and stick at it when the going got tough. He was always on the other end of a phone for me to sound off to and his advice has been brilliant. All that said, I think the one person I owe most, if not all to, is Mark Haywood. I first got to know Mark when I was a Level 4 Referee and he was my coach on the WRCFA School of Excellence. I would go to games on the Football League to watch him, he would come and watch me Refereeing in the West Yorkshire League etc. For the past 7-8 years I have spent most of my Saturday evenings travelling home from games on hands free in the car talking about our games.
What advice would you give to young people wishing to get involved in Refereeing?
If I could offer any advice to anyone, I would say concentrate on your own Refereeing. Don’t worry about why he or she has that game or why they have been promoted and you haven’t. Take ownership of your own future. Look at what everyone operating at the next level does and try to work out ways of doing them better or to more suit you and your style/personality. This day and age it goes without saying that to progress, you must be fit. Start now! There is ample information on the internet or from colleagues at the higher levels where you can make changes to your lifestyle or training. Eat a little better, train a little smarter, communicate a little clearer. I have improved no end through marginal gains. In other words, don’t try and make 1 element of your game 100% better, make 100 elements of your game 1% better and watch the small changes add up. In time, adding all those 1%’s up, will add up to huge improvements in all aspects of the skill set you need to succeed. Above all else, enjoy it.