Two good things happened in March, Bracknell Referees Association joined twitter as @bracknellra and through that we were made aware of a young referee by the name of Ollie Kaya who had just been promoted up the refereeing ladder.
Just 17, Ollie is now a level 6 referee having completed his hours and observation time and can be seen patrolling the line at Hellenic League games. We had a good chat with Ollie below about his career so far and why he became a referee, but first let’s just let the Bracknell RA explain the levels.
Level 7 means Junior County Referee, 6 is County Referee, 5 Senior County Ref and Level 4 is supply league ref. So if you’re a level 5 you ref the Thames Valley Premier League Premier Division but can be level 6 or 7 to do lower division games. Anyone between level 7 and 5 and can referee on the Bracknell Town & District Sunday League. The Hellenic League Division 1 and Premier are both officiated by level 4 refs and lined by level 7,6 and 5.
And here’s our interview with Ollie in full:
Talk us through your refereeing career so far, when did you start?
So, I passed my Referees course in September 2014 and started from there. As soon as you pass your course, you are required to Referee 6 games before being promoted to a Level 8 ‘Youth Referee’.
As soon as you turn 16 you are then listed as a Level 7 Referee, which allows you to jump into adult football, and that’s exactly what I did. I joined the Bracknell Town & District Sunday League and began officiating in the Hellenic League week in week out as an assistant referee.
Most recently I was at the Binfield vs Highworth Town fixture which was a fantastic game.
Adult football has been extremely challenging at times, because more often that not I find myself being the youngest one on the field and must gain the respect of these chaps who have been playing for years.
I have loved every minute of it so far and have completed my promotion from Level 7 to 6, where I was required to referee a minimum of 20 adult games and in that time have 3 assessments, which are completed by FA qualified observers.
You are also required to pass a Laws of the Game test. I have now entered the promotion season and am attempting to go from 6 to 5.
What made you decide to take up refereeing?
I’ll be honest, absolutely nothing! I used to play football for a team called Ashridge Park and I was signed up to the referees course by Mum, along with a couple of other lads that played for the team too.
I didn’t really know too much about it until I was there. However, I instantly became attached and a few months later I found myself giving up playing the game and taking it up full time!
That’s great! What’s your goal now?
My next step is to complete promotion to level 5. The promotion season has now begun and I have until the end of February next year to complete the criteria, which is again, 20 games at an adult level and three assessments. Observers are appointed to your games throughout the season by the divisional secretary.
What’s the best game you’ve been involved in so far?
My best game so far has come as an assistant referee. I have been lucky enough to be appointed a couple of great ties in the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup this season, Ascot United vs MK Dons and then Bracknell Town vs Slough Town earlier this year.
They were both absolutely brilliant to be involved in, but in terms of quality, it would have to be the Bracknell vs Slough tie. The standard of football was unreal and they got just under 500 people through the gate that night too which is the largest crowd I’ve ever officiated in front of.
Got a fair amount of stick off the traveling Slough Town fans!
How do you deal with the stick? I’ve been a linesman for my Sunday League side and that’s bad enough!
It’s part and parcel of it, you’ll never please everyone! I think it’s generally something you become used to. At the start it took me by surprise and sometimes I found it distracting me from the game but overtime it just becomes another noise.
At this level too, the spectators are more often than not right behind you, so not becoming involved in discussions regarding decisions is important, because it could lead you into saying something that might later come back to bite you.
What about the team managers? I imagine that can be quite intense at times?
Of course, like I said, you’ll never please everyone and sometimes have to face the fact that you’re going to annoy people. I think the thing I’ve found most important when refereeing is making sure you can talk to people, because that’s essentially what’s going to gain you respect when decisions go against players/managers.
Being confident and able to chat and communicate to them goes a long way in them accepting what you’ve done and why you’ve done it. Having an open mind and understanding the game from a players perspective is also equally as important, it will go a long way in gaining the respect that will help you in these circumstances.
Finally Ollie, your friends must think your mad? What makes it worth it?
Unfortunately my group of mates aren’t as understanding as that! They will be sure to tell me when they think I’ve made a mistake and not have much sympathy either, I suppose it keeps me on my toes.
Refereeing’s a pretty thankless task, but it also opens you up to a lot more opportunities than a lot of jobs. I was never the best player when I was younger, but loved football, so being a referee was a perfect way of staying in touch with the game, it’s given me a whole new perspective on football and I’ve met some fantastic people along the way.
With that, if you put enough hard work into it, stay fit and show enough commitment, it can become a career. It’s something I’m extremely passionate about and I hope to continue doing it for as long as I possibly can.
Couple of quick ones. What was your first game?
My first ever game was an under 11’s clash between Ashridge Park and Sandhurst Town. Didn’t get off to the best of starts as I forgot to start my watch…
Oh.. how did you know it was half time?
I completely guessed! From what I can remember it was 11 minute quarters, so just blew my whistle for the end of the first quarter and hoped no one came up to me!
One thing you’d say to someone thinking about starting out?
Get yourself on a course. It’s certainly not for everyone but if it is then you can take it as far as you want.
You won’t only improve as a referee, but you’ll become more confident in day to day life situations and your people skills will improve massively. Without doubt the next best thing behind playing the game.
Main image: Ollie Kaya by Richard Claypole.