iCanRef: Haris Muhammad

Tell us about how you got involved in refereeing?

My refereeing journey began somewhat by accident. Having held a coaching badge, I was asked by my nephew’s team if I could referee a game. Having never refereed before, I did some reading on referee positioning and signalling. The game came without much incident, but I really enjoyed it. I felt comfortable refereeing and I thought, I can do this. Soon after this I found out when my next course was, which happened to be in Wakefield. I completed my course and successfully completed my assessment. I then began refereeing in my local Sunday league as well junior games. I also began to officiate as an assistant referee in Women’s Premier League games.


What do you enjoy about refereeing?

The main reason why I enjoy refereeing is how I feel on the pitch. The responsibility to be able to deliver the game. Each game feels like I’m the director of a play, in control but allowing the performers to do what they need to.  I love what I do, the sense of gratification coming from 22 plus handshakes after a game is unparalleled. It comes with its difficulties. You have to be concentrating 100% from the first whistle to the last. It is physically quite demanding, but it’s worth it. I’ve also built a great network of friends and colleagues, all from different walks of life, but all who went through similar journeys to myself. The referees association is also one of my favourite aspects of being a referee. It’s a great place to make friends, ask any questions in a safe space and develop myself as a referee.


What are your greatest achievements in refereeing and why?

  • Becoming qualified was an achievement.
  • Being appointed to a county cup final was a great privilege, to be recognised as one of the top officials in the county is a great honour.
  • Being appointed to 2 women’s FA cup and 2 youth FA cup matches, is a privilege and an honour.
  • I participated at the IberCup Barcelona tournament and was also appointed to a final.


What is your best memory of refereeing?

There have been so many great memories. The IberCup in Barcelona sticks out, meeting so many referees from across the world. I also remember walking out for my county cup final which was definitely the proudest moment. But every time I get congratulated on a game is a great moment.


What are your goals in the sport?

As far my goals as a referee, I want to develop as the best official I can. Regardless as to what level I get to, I want to have the goal that when a team sees my name as the referee, they think “He’s a good ref”. I’d love to officiate at a league level, which is attainable with the right attitude and hard work.

My other major goal is that I’d like to help inspire as many people as I can to take up refereeing. When I became a referee, it was surprising to me, how few referees there are from a BAME background. Coming from a BAME background myself, having role models who I can identify with is really important. But now that I have the opportunity, it’s important for me to be that role model. I want to help everyone recognise that people from BAME backgrounds are as much as a part of society as anyone else and love the game of football as the rest of society. I want to use football as a mechanism to help unite society.


What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in football?

Staying confident is a challenge after a tough game. You always know if you have or haven’t done well in a game. When things haven’t gone well and you haven’t performed well, maintaining faith in your own ability is tough. However, you get over that by reflecting about the mistakes you made and seeing how you can make sure that you don’t make these mistakes again. You also speak to those people who you trust and seek advice from them.


Who’s had the biggest influence in your refereeing career and why?

4 people come to mind.

Christine Forsyth – The first ever person who I was assistant referee to. I’d only been a referee a few months. I was very nervous, but Christine was great in the middle but also helped me throughout the game. She has been a mentor to me ever since. She’s not afraid to tell hard truths, but sometime that’s what required for development.

Jane Simms – I was fortunate enough to be an assistant to Jane on multiple occasions. She has also been a wonderful mentor to me both on the pitch and off it. She is a real inspiration to everyone.

Colin Woods – He was recently nominated for grassroots official of the year in the West Riding County FA and for good reason. If anyone wanted inspiration about what can be achieved through sheer grit, determination and a smile, then Colin is a great example. I’ve worked with Colin many times and it’s always a pleasure. He is an excellent official but a fantastic individual. He also spends a lot of time co-ordinating referees for different leagues. He has the well-being of every referee in mind.

Aaron Bannister – Aaron was the person who conducted my course. He taught me exactly what was required to be a good referee. He also appointed me to several fixtures as an assistant that rapidly increased my development. Aaron also introduced me to Castleford RA and is a big reason why I’m made to feel so comfortable and welcome. He’s always willing to answer any questions and I wouldn’t be where I am as a ref without him.


What advice would you give to people wishing to get involved in refereeing?

Do it! Taking up refereeing was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s an excellent way of spending your time. I’ve gained so many life skills from refereeing, it’s impacted me so much in a positive way.

The second bit of advice is to learn from as many people as you can. There are plenty of people who are willing to help you develop as a referee, all you need to do is to be humble, listen and learn.


Fancy getting involved in refereeing? Check out West Riding FA's upcoming courses