iCanRef: Dior Bentley Q&A
Tell us about how and why you got involved in refereeing?
I have played football at a high level, most recently with Doncaster belles RTC.
So, I have always been interested in football.
My dad is a qualified referee and I used to enjoy watching him.
You would often find me at his games with a flag in my hand (not that he ever took any notice).
When I was younger, I asked my dad if I could learn to be a referee, so he got me the course for my 14th birthday.
I initially got into refereeing to be more involved in the game, but I found I was quite good at it.
I love the buzz of making snap decisions and helping and encouraging children to do something they love.
It’s also a brilliant money earner.
What do you enjoy about refereeing?
I like the fact that I can be confident.
I wouldn’t say I’m naturally a very confident person but being on the pitch really brings out this side of me.
By me being a referee it enables others to enjoy the sport and lets me give something back.
At many levels it’s a case of no ref, no game so I love the aspect of seeing younger kids enjoy playing football like myself and I enjoy the excitement in the adult games as there are so many more decisions to make.
I also love being faced with a challenge.
Who are your role models in refereeing?
My biggest role model is definitely my dad.
He’s really helped me through my career and is beside me every step of the way.
He’s great at giving advice and all round someone who I look up to a lot.
If I was to choose someone who works high up in the profession, it would be Rebecca Welch.
She is truly an inspirational character being one of the first women to develop into the men’s game.
I really enjoy seeing her perform and achieve things that I can only dream of achieving one day.
What are your greatest achievements in refereeing and why?
My greatest achievement would without a doubt be officiating for England Girls U16s at St. George’s Park earlier this year.
What a fantastic experience that was.
It was an honour and privilege to be selected as an assistant.
I feel I learnt a lot from that day, and it will be something I’ll take with me in my whole refereeing career.
Being the youngest official on the day, I was very proud of myself for being selected.
I have also been lucky enough to officiate in four cup finals in my first season as a referee.
What is your best memory of refereeing?
My best memory refereeing would have to be when I refereed an open age women’s game.
The few weeks prior to this match I had some very challenging games where I came off the pitch doubting myself.
I had a chat with my dad and he explained sometimes you will have games feeling like you couldn’t get anything right because either way the supporters or managers would complain.
Going into this women’s game I was very nervous however as I mentioned before I love a challenge.
Nothing you want in life is easy and there was no way I was going to let a few bad games put me off doing something I love.
Once the game got underway my nerves soon lifted and I ended up having a really good game.
At the end of the match both teams and fans gave me a standing ovation it was such an amazing feeling.
As a referee, things like this remind me as to why I became a referee.
What are your goals for the future?
My goal for this season is to hopefully gain promotion.
This progression will then help me achieve my future goals to be able to referee in the Women’s Super League.
My dream one day would be to officiate in the Premier League.
It’s something I aspire to achieve, and I am hopeful that one day I will be able to make that dream come true.
I am a determined person, so I am willing to put the hard work in to be able to achieve these goals.
What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in refereeing and how have you overcome them?
I would have to say one of the hardest things about refereeing is the abuse.
Being a young girl turning up to a boys/men’s game automatically they think I’m not going to be any good.
I feel I am often judged on appearance before my ability to ref.
Having played and watched the sport myself I thankfully understand the frustration from a players and fans perspective when decisions go against them.
However, I have learnt to be quite resilient and have grown a thick skin.
I do try to let most comments go over my head and not disrupt my game.
I remind myself I have a job to do and I can only do my best and make decisions based on what I see.
The power of cards does come in handy.
I feel confident enough that if someone oversteps the respect mark, I am not afraid to show them a card.
This usually makes them re-think the way they address me for the remainder of the match.
Having this authority helps and sends a clear message to all that I will not let anyone speak disrespectfully to me.
My dad is often at my games to support me and he will always give me honest feedback following the match.
I therefore know after each match what I need to work on for the next match.
What advice would you give to people thinking about getting involved in refereeing?
Honestly, I would encourage anyone with an interest to have a go.
It is great to be able to referee so many different teams and meet new people of all ages and abilities.
It has enabled me to face new challenges and push myself out of my comfort zone.
The confidence I have gained is unbelievable and I have already been opened up to great experiences just from refereeing.
People can referee to a level they are comfortable with so even if it is just refereeing your local junior clubs it all enables many matches go ahead which wouldn’t if people didn’t referee.
I would highly recommend getting your badges though as it a great way to earn money whilst participating in a sport you love.
The age of referees being involved in football is much older than footballers so it is definitely a job that can span over many years.
When I think back to those days of watching my dad referee whilst it is harder than it can look it is also very rewarding.
I’ve grown to love refereeing and I often recommend it to my friends.
I would 100% encourage young girls to get more involved in refereeing as the women’s game is growing by the minute and we need more female officials.