I Can Ref:Colin Woods
So Colin, tell us about how and why you got involved in Refereeing?
I had played a few games for Moortown Albion when I first arrived here in West Yorkshire and I will never forget the morning, it was cold and wet and a very typical winter league Sunday morning game. As we were all getting ready for the game, we were told that the referee had not turned up and as we had two keepers at the time I said “yeah go on I will do it, I know a little” or so I later found out I knew nothing and I was only 19 at the time.
After the game finished, I realised how hard it was for the referee as I had no idea what I was doing and was very thankful that both teams respected that I was only a club official doing the game. After the game the club gave me £20 and told me that was for doing the game, as a 19 year old I was over the moon as I had just played my part in a game and had been paid for it.
The Monday following the game I contacted the Leeds & District Referees officer Geoff Fairbourn to find out if there were any courses I could do, he told me they had one starting the following night in West Leeds but it was one night a week for 8 weeks followed by an exam, to which I happily accepted. Once I had completed everything, I was given a plastic bag with some donated referees kit along with a whistle and some cards, which I was very grateful for and also a list of my local leagues. I contacted the Leeds Sunday Football League and spoke to the Referee’s Secretary at the time Mr Tony Haney, who instantly offered me a game that week at Roundhay Park. He also said he would come along and support me. On arriving at the ground Tony gave me some words of advice and told me to go and enjoy myself, I was physically shaking and panicking and worried I would forget everything but it’s safe to say the game went well and as they say, the rest is history.
How did it feel to win the 2019 West Riding FA Match Official of the Year award?
I received an initial email to say I had been nominated for the award very much to my surprise, a few days later I was told by email again I had won the award. I can honestly say that I was fully shocked to have won and could not wait to tell my family & friends. I knew these awards existed but never in my wildest of dreams did I think I would ever win it.
What do you enjoy about being a Referee?
Refereeing has become a big part of my life and I do it because I love the feeling I get on match days with the anticipation of how the game will go. I am very privileged to officiate on the West Riding County FA U21s/U23s League where we operate as a team of three and all games are under floodlights. It gives me a great feeling working alongside other officials but I also operate on other local leagues across West Yorkshire such as The West Yorkshire League and the Wharfedale Triangle League, these games I operate alone and I thoroughly enjoy every game I do, regardless of how hard or challenging the game can be.
What are your greatest achievements in Refereeing?
I think it would be unfair for me to highlight any one specific game as every game I do has an equal importance to me. However, over my career, I have been given opportunities through my vast charity work to referee at some of the country’s top grounds such as West Bromwich Albion, Leeds United, Manchester United and Newcastle United just to name a few.
What is your best memory of Refereeing?
My best memory of refereeing was meeting Referee Howard Webb just after he had refereed the World Cup Final and I got the opportunity to hold the actual World Cup match ball and his medal. This was when he came and officiated with us at the annual Physcap 5 a side tournament held here in Leeds annually.
What are your goals in the sport?
I am currently a level 5 Senior County Referee and as it stands, due to my wife’s serious ill health, it is hard for me to progress up the refereeing pyramid. Although, I do hope at some point to try and climb up.
I currently run a group through social media with a good friend and referee Stuart Haley called Yorkshire Referees, which over the past 18months has grown in leaps and bounds. It is a very valuable tool to help staff games when leagues are short but also for referees to discuss issues they have had in their games.
My biggest goal in football is to try and help any referee achieve his or her dream in any way I can.
What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in the game
I think the biggest obstacle I have faced in the game is the player’s and manager’s knowledge of the laws of the game and also the levels of verbal abuse that we receive, however now the new sin bin law has been brought into the game I have seen a rapid decrease so I feel it can only be for the good of the game.
Who’s had the biggest influence in your Refereeing career and why?
I think I have to go off track here a little as the person who has had the biggest influence in my refereeing career is my wife. She stands by me all the time and is always there to support me after I’ve had a tough game no matter what. She fully boosts my confidence and its true in the saying (behind every great man Is a great woman).
What advice would you give to young people wishing to get involved in Refereeing?
Don’t think twice about doing the course. We are all here to support you from day one and even when you feel the chips are down, there is always someone there to talk to and to help you through it. I can’t speak for other County FA’s but we are very lucky here in West Yorkshire to have a dedicated team at the WRCFA who will always guide you in the right direction.
Could you follow in Colin's footsteps? Check out West Riding FA's upcoming referee courses!