Nigel Bannister

iCanRef: Nigel Bannister Q&A

Nigel is a former Premier League Assistant who has continued to officiate games at grassroots level due to his love of doing so

Tell us about how and why you got involved in refereeing?

I started refereeing in 1990 after playing football in Monk Bretton then Hemsworth Miners Welfare for several years.

I used to be a goalkeeper for Hemsworth Miners Welfare and I picked up a knee injury that took some time to recover.

A friend of mine mentioned the referee’s course in South Elmsall so we both went for it.

I used to play on Saturdays and referee Sundays but decided to start refereeing only.

My supply was the Doncaster Senior League.

I was promoted to the middle fairly quickly and so too to Level 3 which was the Northern Premier League which was called the Unibond League (now the Evo-Stik).

It seems incredible now but if you were a referee at Level 3 then you were 4th official on Football League games.

These included the likes of Bradford City, Huddersfield, both Sheffield Clubs.

The Unibond officials list also covered Liverpool FC if you can believe that?

I was 4th official at Huddersfield Town and one of the assistants became injured during the first half.

I went on for the whole of the 2nd half.

Gerald Taylor was assessing and he gave me a glowing report, so too did the referee Mr Andy Hall, who sent a letter to the Football League complimenting me.

At the end of that season, I was promoted to the Football League line.

Shortly after I was promoted to the Panel List (2A in old money) and then to assist on the Premier League for 15 seasons.


What level referee are you and where do you officiate?

l am now a Level 5 referee on the West Yorkshire League.

I mainly assist on Saturdays and referee most Sundays on the Wharfedale Triangle League.


What do you enjoy about refereeing?

I enjoy the challenge of a tough game nowadays.

I enjoy the rewards of seeing referee’s progress when I have worked with them and offered them advice.

Thankfully a lot of the guys who I have given advice have gone on to be very good referees.

Recent ones are Arran Williams, Tom Maher and my son Aaron isn’t bad either!

The best reward for me is when you’ve had a tough game and you are thinking during the game “why am I doing this?” then after the game players and both coaches from both teams approach you, shake your hand and say “well done today ref, you’ve had a good game!” and “we like having you, you’re tough but fair!”

Refereeing keeps me fit.

But I keep fit to referee not referee to be fit there’s a difference!


Who are your role models in refereeing?

The biggest influence when I started was a guy from Mexbrough called Steve Cooke who refereed on the Doncaster League then the Unibond League.

I blatantly stole all sorts of his game from him.

I often told him too.

He finished refereeing too soon as he was an avid Doncaster Rovers fan.

I often took him to games when they were in the National Conference League when I was refereeing them and then later to football league games.

Locally, also a guy called Walter Hirst at that time from South Elmsall.

He mentored me through the tough early years.

He was a local legend and we are still friends.

As I progressed, Mark Halsey came to the games I was refereeing and gave me advice as we were friends.

My inspirations were Graham Poll, Mike Riley and Paul Durkin.

I worked with these guys regularly and learned lots from them i.e. like managing certain situations and players, yet having fun before and after each game too!

I have many great stories/memories involving these guys.


What are your greatest achievements in refereeing and why?

Assisting on a UEFA cup game at Villareal in Spain.

I had lots of big games as an assistant.

The Wolves v WBA was tough, so too was the Leeds v Man Utd game and one of the toughest was when Leeds had to win at Arsenal to stay up and by doing so prevented Arsenal from winning the League.

Man Utd won the league that year.

I was shocked when I returned home and saw the effect one of the decisions: I gave an Arsenal attacker offside chalking off a goal, at that moment the TV cameras panned to some Man Utd spectators in a pub who went absolutely crazy like their team had actually scored!

I have had the pleasure to referee both the Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA Senior Cup Final as well as our own West Riding County FA one.


What is your best memory of refereeing?

All of the above.

I was reserve Assistant on a Carling Cup Final.

The whole weekend away etc was a great experience, working with Phil Dowd, as well as our own Dave Richardson.

As too was the UEFA cup game with Mark Halsey.

As a referee, I refereed a FA Cup game Whitby Town v Scarborough when Whitby were in the Unibond and Scarborough were a recently relegated Football League team in the National Conference League.

It was the first game they had played against each other in a very long time.

It was all very tense with the potential prize money and bragging rights at stake.

The kick-off was delayed for the large number of spectators arriving.

Whitby Town won.


What are your goals for the future?

My future goals are to continue to be accepted as a good referee by the players and manager’s post match the majority of the time.

I also love giving advice to up and coming referees, providing they ask me for it and accept the criticism I may tell them!

As a few have already told me, I am straight to the point.

Having said that, to point out something that no one has mentioned to them, as well as helping them when they are being assessed, to prevent them being marked down on something, makes me tick!  


What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in refereeing and how have you overcome them?

I have had to face a few large obstacles during my career.

Embarrassing decisions, injuries that meant I have had to forfeit big games.

You have to just believe and trust in your own ability and work hard.

I have learned how to dissect and breakdown a problem and build on it so that it won’t happen again.

I ask what was the root or the cause of a particular problem? Why did “x” scenario happen? What was it a result of? i.e. not yellow carding a player and then players taking the law into their own hands? Should I have been in this position on the field for a better viewing angle? Did I just switch off and miss something that may be really obvious to all? etc, etc.

There is usually a basic reason why a particular scenario has occurred.

Occasionally however, it might be just something that is out of anyone’s control and happens completely out of the blue.


What advice would you give to people thinking about getting involved in refereeing?

The rewards as you progress to the top level of football are manyfold; not only financially but the standard of football, stadia and the talented players you will come across and get to know personally.

It’s a long road to the top though in football, this sentiment applies to all careers I know, but more so in refereeing circles.

Therefore, you have to be prepared to work hard and put up with the knockbacks i.e. you may be so close to promotion and have to start again the following season.

You may ask yourself, how come he has got promotion and not me? Well, the merit table doesn’t usually lie, so there will be some underlying trend or reason!

No one knows this better than my son Aaron who has had to overcome his own disappointments.

He has dug in and recently gained promotion to 2A.

The same applies to Arran Williams and many other guys I have had the pleasure to be involved with, you know who you are you guys!


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