It's crazy. 50,000 people have chosen to follow my profile on TikTok. That's 10,000 more than can fit Chelsea's home pitch at Stamford Bridge!
I assume that maybe 1,000+ of the 50,000 have ref'd some type of sport before and can identify with the joy's and challenges with being a ref. It's a fraternity of sorts. We have an understanding and bond amongst each other. I could meet a ref from the other side of the world, and I will share a bond with them that I can't describe.
Almost all of those refs are Grassroots hobbyists just like me. We don't get coaching, training or assessments on a weekly basis like the pros. We have to learn as we go from experiences (good and bad) and hopefully from other ref's before, during and after games. This channel provides a constant stream of referee related content that simply isn't replicated anywhere else.
Another 1,000+ are probably coaches or administrators who have to deal directly with referees. I think they want to get a better understanding of the laws of the game and refs perspective on some of the calls they may not fully understand.
I have at least 500+ trolls who simply like to hate on refs and blame everything on them. I'm amazed out the outright animosity and anger targeted towards officials. Social Media provides people an avenue to vent their most dark and aggressive thoughts without fear of reprisal. It can bring out the worst in people.
I believe the overwhelming majority of the 50,000 followers are people who love the game of football just like I do. They want to celebrate intricacies and genuinely want to understand why a key match decision would go one way or another.
As referees, for far too long, we have tried to keep a low profile and stay out of the limelight. I get it. We need to stay humble, unbiased and at all times, professional. But if we don't give our perspective, who will? Commentators? Coaches? Journalists? Spectators? Soccer moms? Not a chance.
It's up to us (referees) to leverage technology to expand the knowledge, understanding and shared experiences to our developing referees. We also need to inform the public on the laws of the game and the challenges of enforcing them.
I have no idea how far this TikTok thing will go. Maybe one day I'll hit 1,000,000 followers. If I do, I know that far more people will appreciate what a it takes to be a referee. They will understand that we are human. Maybe, they will start to love us too.