iCanRef: David Richardson
Tell us about how and why you got involved in refereeing?
I took the course when I was 14 yeards old, down in Matlock, Derbyshire where I am originally from. A friend of my dad, who was a local referee, knew I liked football, but also recognised I was no Ronaldo so he suggested it to me. I thought I was taking the course with my dad, and in those days it was held in the local pub, but here we parted company as I went upstairs to do the course, whilst he stayed downstairs at the bar! Initially I started doing junior football in the area, the first game being a closely fought 9-0 win for South Normanton Colts, and then I moved up to University in “God’s Country”. I worked my way up to Level 4 refereeing in Halifax and Harrogate before gaining Level 3 status and refereeing on the NCEL which was a Contributory League back in the day.
What do you enjoy about refereeing?
Well let’s be blunt, being a poor penniless student, the match fee came in handy from time to time. However, with money being the last thing on my mind now, it has to be the mates and camaraderie I have made over 30 years of refereeing. Even in the early years when I was out refereeing on my own, you still had the support and friendship of referees in your local RA or League, and now as I have moved up the ladder and referee in a team, I can still count on those colleagues and many more to share experiences with, ask advice of, and much more than that, count as true friends.
As to the rewards for anybody starting out refereeing, the world is your oyster. It’s taken me many many years to achieve what I have done. It’s taken hard work both physically and mentally, a lot of hours, a lot of miles and a lot of patience but if you are prepared to work hard, not just expect success but earn it, and are always willing to constantly learn, then you will be giving yourself the best opportunity.
Who are your role models in refereeing?
No role models, it’s all natural ability! Well ok, if pressed there are many. From Brian Wood who first got me started and unofficially mentored me, to Alan Kaye during those student years in Bradford. Trevor Simpson my first true coach who always helped and shared his experiences (as well as some truly awful jokes), Eddie Wolstenholme, Dave Babski who was my “lining coach” during the golden years and now my current coach and mate, Graham Laws. However I wouldn’t be where I am now without the support of friends on and off the field and a special mention must go to the Madley brothers, Jamie Rhodes who always brings me back down to earth, and the lads who I coach who always inspire me even if they do keep me on my toes!
What are your greatest achievements in refereeing and why?
If you can’t be good, be lucky! I have been lucky enough to be appointed to many great games and the fact that some person or some committee think David Richardson deserves this game and he won’t let us down and will do a solid job means an awful lot.
Promotion from level 4 to level 3 is my most difficult promotion and that was the start of where it all gets very serious. Being appointed to the most senior final your County can give you is a major honour, as is representing your country for the first time and my week away with Howard Webb in Sweden will live long in the memory. Achieving FIFA assistant referee status is hard to beat but walking out at Wembley with Howard Webb, Mike Mullarkey and Martin Atkinson for the 2009 FA Cup Final, Everton v Chelsea will always be my biggest and most memorable game.
What is your best memory of refereeing?
There have been so many and anybody starting out on this adventure should be prepared for a real rollercoaster of a ride but walking up the Wembley steps and collecting my FA Cup final medal from the UN Secretary-General through tear filled eyes won’t be matched. Representing my country 43 times is a pretty humbling experience too. But maybe the best is yet to come!!
However more recent memories of helping and developing newer referees and mentoring them on both the National and West Riding County CORE (Centre of Refereeing Excellence) are special in other ways and it is rewarding to seem them progress and improve hopefully as a result of something I have given them to think about.
What are your goals in the sport?
Tough question for me this. Being in the twilight of my career, on reflection I would have to say it is to remain physically fit to compete with the demands of the modern game, to continue to be recognised as a fair and reliable referee and to maintain the high standards I have set myself over the years. If as a result of my performances and efforts this means any further promotions, then I will grasp that with both hands, if not, I’ve not had a bad career!
What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in refereeing?
The biggest obstacles you may face are maybe within your own control. Time pressures as you advance become ever greater and even if you just referee one day of the weekend, is that compatible with your work commitments, family life and having a social life. As I advanced to the International stage, juggling games at a weekend and midweek was never easy with a busy NHS career, and you need both an understanding family and employer.
One other obstacle is the pressure you put on yourself to always be right and never make a mistake. This obviously has more of an impact the higher up the refereeing ladder you progress and the greater scrutiny you are subjected to. Missing a “blatant penalty” means just as much to the parks players as the Premier League superstars at that moment in time. So how do you cope with pressure and making mistakes? We’re human and we make mistakes and even with the advent of VAR, we still don’t seem able to get 100% accuracy in many people’s eyes so you will make errors. It’s how you respond to those errors (or perceived errors), and if you have a strong mind and can rationalise and learn from these decisions/ mistakes then these people will make the best referees.
What advice would you give to people wishing to get involved in refereeing?
It won’t be for everyone, but give it a go!! There is far more support than there ever used to be both at a local and a National level. It will keep you fit, you’ll earn a “few bob”, you’ll undoubtedly make new friends and who knows, one day you could get that call or that email to represent your country or walk out at Wembley.