Ever wondered what it is like to have a career in refereeing? With female referees in particular in short supply to cover the highest growth area in football with female participation in the game, we went straight to the source and asked ESFA referee Amber Morris who commenced with ESFA in 2017 and is now officiating WNPL1 the whys and the wherefores in her decision that refereeing was the best part of football.
ESFA: Hi Amber, thanks for joining us! Let’s start with the basics. Why did you become a referee and were you involved in football previously?
Amber: I’ve been involved in football on and off since my teens, playing locally with friends as well as at high school. The reason I decided to become a referee was purely to help out when my team didn’t have a referee. When ESFA sent out the information for the Level 4 referee course I thought I would give it a go.
ESFA: In understanding of your commitment to refereeing, we need to ask the tough question about your first game?
Amber: I remember my first game perfectly. March 24th 2017. It was a mid-week Women’s ESFA Cup Game at Jellicoe between Pagewood Botany and UNSW. I was an assistant referee (AR) with Kirsty. I was nervous and excited, I didn’t want to mess it up. Once the game kicked off and the nerves settled, I really enjoyed myself.
ESFA: With the nerves and excitement surrounding your first game subsiding, we think it’s great you embraced refereeing and continued. What motivated you and got you through it?
Amber: It was probably my own stubbornness to see what I can achieve that’s kept me motivated but it would be my amazing support network that’s got me through it.
I’m not going to lie and say it’s always been easy and as positively memorable as my first game. There have been games where I’ve wanted to quit and never referee again. We (referees) are human at the end of the day and there are times where dissent does take its toll on you. We’re there because we enjoy football as much as those playing.
I vividly remember a game where the dissent was so bad that I walked off the match and called Caroline (who was the ESFA Referee’s Coordinator at the time). I explained what had happened, she listened patiently and supported me for at least 45 minutes! It was then I realized that with her support, I wasn’t going to give up.
ESFA: When did you realise you wished to continue your referee pathway? How was this attained and how were you mentored throughout the process?
Amber: In the 2017 pre-season seminar Jack Bell (Branch Coach) and Caroline went through the FFA referee pathways program but I honestly didn’t take too much notice of it at the time as I thought I was only going to referee occasionally. It wasn’t until I was appointed to an AAM game as an AR with Nathan Lara (Nathan was refereeing for both ESFA and NSW State League branch at the time) that I truly understood the pathways and opportunities. Nathan encouraged me to consider joining State League in 2018 but I still wasn’t convinced.
In 2018, as part of FFA’s Female Football Week, Football NSW held an all-female open training session with W-League and FIFA Referees at Valentine Sports Park. We were coached on signals, sprints and positioning and to wrap up the session Sarah Ho (FIFA Assistant Referee) took us through her journey as a referee. At the conclusion, Sarah invited me to train with the National Squad at Blacktown and that’s when I thought maybe I should give refereeing a serious go.
I have been, and continue to be mentored my many incredible people with so much experience. I must acknowledge Caroline Oakes-Ash, Jack Bell, Richard Beazley and Nathan Lara from ESFA as well as Sarah Ho, John Bowdler, Rob Nieuwenheis and Kris Griffiths-Jones from Football NSW, who continue to mentor and support me.
ESFA: We love that you still have commitment to ESFA whilst being appointed to Football NSW NPL1 Women’s games, how do you maintain the time, fitness and ability to do this?
Amber: Haha! Good question. Time can sometimes be a challenge. My employer is incredibly supportive of my ambitions as a referee which allows me leave work to get to mid-week games and training on time. There are some personal sacrifices but my friends and family support me and my goals.
ESFA: What advice would you have for any girls and women who are considering become a referee, or indeed anyone?
Amber: Give it a go. It’s amazing way to keep fit, earn a little extra cash and meet wonderful people. Take the opportunities that come your way because you just never know what you can achieve.
ESFA: What has been the highlight of your refereeing career with ESFA and the highlight of your career with Football NSW?
Amber: It’s going to sound so cliché but honestly the biggest highlight would be the friends I’ve made through refereeing. I do however have two “on field” highlights. My first one would be the appointment to the ESFA G18 Championship Grand Final in 2017. It was the first time in ESFA history that an all-female team of referees officiated a grand final and for the girls this was important. Thanks to Jack and Caroline for the honour and opportunity. My second highlight would have to be the appointment to the 2018 NSW Women’s National Premier League grand final as an AR, it is a game that I will never forget.
ESFA: In wrapping up our fabulous chat with you, where would you like refereeing to take you? Can we hope to see you in the W-League in the future? Or even the A-League?
Amber: Ultimately, I would love to be selected to the W-League panel as an assistant referee, but I take each week’s appointments as they come.
ESFA: Thanks Amber for your fabulous insight into refereeing and we wish you all the best in the future, it has genuinely been a pleasure being a part of your refereeing career.
Interestingly, Amber has some great statistics for her 2 and almost a half seasons of refereeing. Amber has officiated 236 games including her debut game at ESFA. That translates to 21,020 minutes of game time or 14.6 days! Amber also advises in that time she has run 1,236 kms! Some pretty good stats we would think.
If you wish to become a referee or even venture further in your refereeing pathway, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org