Firstly, we have Jordan Crichlow, our newly appointed Investigations Officer. Jordan is also a Level 4 Referee, so for Black History Month he is sharing his experience as a black referee in London and the influences on his life which led him to work through referee promotion.
My biggest influence in wanting to become a referee was my Dad. My Dad is a semi-professional referee, who has been qualified for over 30 years. He is currently officiating on leagues such as the Combined Counties and Southern Counties East Football League. He has also officiated across a huge number of grassroots and youth leagues around the Surrey/London area. Seeing him referee at such a good level inspired me to want to follow in his footsteps.
The best match I have ever officiated on has to be when I was assistant referee for Lewes vs Three Bridges on Saturday 17th September 2022. This was the FA Cup Second Qualifying Round so the stakes were high with both teams vying for the chance to continue in this historic cup. The atmosphere was immense. With over 1000 people in the ground, it really felt like a Premier League atmosphere! Undoubtedly, there was pressure to make sure I performed my best, which required me to push myself with a lot of training prior to the game. It is the preparation to be both mentally and physically prepared for anything which may come your way. I was really happy with mine and my colleague’s performances on the day, with the score finishing 1-1. This meant the game went to a replay, but I was so honoured to be part of such an amazing event.
There is a lot of Black representation in grassroots football and even in Steps 5-7 of the National League System. You could see this when I first went to the London FA Mastermind Referee group sessions. These monthly sessions focused on referee development and socialising with other referees. When I walked into the room on my first Mastermind session, I was pleasantly surprised to see a high number of Black referees. I immediately felt more comfortable and confident to see more people like me ready to learn and with the same passion as myself. Since then, I’ve gone on to meet, work with and develop numerous black referees over the past few years. As you progress through the refereeing pyramid, you realise that others begin to look up to you as a role model, just like I did when I was 18 and walked into that session.
There is sadly a lot less representation when you look at the higher leagues and move beyond Step 5. There are a few role models at the higher levels, the likes of Sam Allison and Akil Howson, who are inspirational to young Black referees. I think one of the factors in the lack of representation could be due to the time and commitment required to move up the steps in refereeing. Trying to balance refereeing with other commitments such as family and work means that it can be challenging to put all your time into developing yourself in becoming the best referee out of the others you are competing with.
The London FA Racial Equality Action Plan (REAP) is something which I am working closely on and I can already see the positive influence it will have on the community. It is important for London FA to show they are taking this seriously; it is easy to sit back and not act but in launching the REAP, we are taking a stand on making football accessible to all. In launching the plan, we hope to inspire more people from ethnically diverse backgrounds to get into refereeing and coaching. It will hopefully raise awareness on discrimination in football games which referees have to deal with and tackle them to make refereeing more accessible to Black people. We may not be able to change the whole world but if we can change things within the London FA that will positively impact the football community, then it is worth it every time.
You can read about the London FA Racial Equality Plan here.
Do you have a story you would like to share during Black History Month? Let us know!