iCanRef: Sophie Christian
Tell us about how you got involved in refereeing?
I got into refereeing around 5 years ago at the age of 14, when I got offered the opportunity to do a referee's course through the club I was playing for at the time after helping to referee some of the younger age groups on a Sunday morning. My course was a female only course which I did just before Christmas at West Riding FA, it lasted for two days in which I gained the knowledge I needed to go out and referee on a weekend. From there I then went onto referee junior games for the local girls and boys leagues. After refereeing junior football for two seasons I then made the jump to adult football and haven’t looked back since.
What do you enjoy about refereeing?
Refereeing has always provided me with a challenge as every game is different, you never know quite what you’ll be faced with when you go to blow the whistle at the start of a match. For me personally, it provides an environment where everything else is meaningless come those 90 minutes, all you have to focus on is refereeing that match to the best standard you can. Football has always been a massive part of my life whether it was playing or watching it, so refereeing has provided a continuity of this after I stopped playing.
From refereeing I’ve met and worked with some amazing individuals who have supported me throughout my refereeing career so far and I’ve also learnt so much from, who have helped and guided me to become the referee I am today.
What are your greatest achievements in refereeing and why?
Both promotions which I have achieved in the last two seasons, both go down as some of my greatest achievements as it’s a culmination of a full seasons work; which at times can become difficult as a lot of consistency and commitment is required to get your games in.
Alongside my promotions officiating on County Cup finals as well as District Cup finals have been a massive privilege. This season I have been lucky enough to officiate in the early rounds of the FA Vase and Women’s FA Cup which has been a great opportunity to experience.
What is your best memory of refereeing?
My best memory of refereeing has been the feeling you get after being given an appointment that acknowledges your hard work throughout the season, whether that’s a cup final at the end of the season or the early rounds of the FA competitions. There’s no better feeling than receiving an email which rewards you for all the hard work and commitment you put in every week.
What are your goals in the sport?
Personally, when I started refereeing, I hadn’t set myself any expectations of what I'd like to achieve, having got more involved with my refereeing within the past two seasons I’d love to just go as far as I can, in both the men's and women's game. I’d also love to help other referees coming up the ranks and give them my advice where I can, particularly with the young female referees who are starting their careers.
What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in football?
Within my first 6 games of refereeing I unfortunately had an incident within a game where I received abuse from the managers of a junior game, all they did were question my decisions, shout at me; even coming onto the pitch at one point to express their opinions that I wasn’t correct. Having only just started my refereeing I was extremely close to quitting altogether. Thankfully, I did carry on and to this day I’m glad that I did as I believe it has helped me to cope with whatever situations I am faced with during matches, whether that be the players and managers or the odd comment from spectators questioning why you’re there.
Who’s had the biggest influence in your refereeing career and why?
There are a lot of people who have been influential during my time as a referee. Non more importantly than those at my referee's association: Barkston Ash. During my initial unfortunate experience when I first started refereeing, they fully supported me and have continued to give me advice and guidance over the past few seasons and I can’t thank them enough for this. They’ve always just been a phone call away and would do anything to try and help me out. Further to my RA, the County FA have always been fully supportive, particularly Mark who has always had faith in my ability to referee.
What advice would you give to people wishing to get involved in refereeing?
The best advice I could give is just to go ahead and do the course. You’ll learn so much from refereeing that you wouldn’t from anywhere else. Make sure once you’ve done the course to join your local RA and seek support from other referees, as there is plenty of people out there who are willing to help and guide you when refereeing. Take everything you can from listening to those who want to help as they have been in the shoes you are in now and only want the best for you.